You did NOT waste time producing that Asset Data

The sentiment I keep hearing and reading is that the client did not value the asset data, it just sat in the drawer. I don’t think so and neither should you.

Worth it even if it was only used once

Any data provided in an exchange format, IFC & COBie, might only be accessed once for extraction by the client. All you can do is make sure it is valid and compliant with any information requirement. Even if the client has asked for the asset data because they have been required to do it by their financial masters, you can be almost certain they will dive into that COBie spread sheet to get a list of spaces and areas needed for some an annual report. It may be that the client’s expectation of their applications “COBie” importer comes with caveats that make it less than straight forward. Or that the database expert who would import the spreadsheet and run insert/update procedures is on holiday or moved on.

Always check the integrity of the data

There is nothing worse, as a recipient of data, in finding structural errors which could have been fixed before being sent out. This is like not using the spell checker on a word document. The data must be fixed by someone and the temptation is always to do it yourself dependent on if you are in the workflow or past the end. A few years back the only free Cobie validation checker was java based and did not cover all the tables, now there are a number, downloadable executables and online. Our own , free to use, COBie validator conforms to the BS-1192-4.

Key features to look for of a COBie checker/validator

  • Tables and Field names spelt correctly and the right order.
  • Checks that field values are valid. i.e. If values meet the format requirements.
  • Checks for unique key duplication.
  • Foreign key references. i.e. The relationships between tables.

What validators will not do

Many modelling systems now have model checkers and rules can be created to test if data is present, within acceptable values and use the required nomenclature. The disadvantages of model checkers are that they only check model data, so if the application cannot import the COBie data in which most asset data is completed then you will only have a partial data validation. The free validators will not test against these requirements, to have this capability requires the AIR to be in a digital format that an application can read. The commonly used requirement matrix found in most EIR’s do not go into a deep enough level of detail leaving unanswered questions between different asset types.

Step back and think about the client’s expectation

At a BIM Show live presentation a few years ago, 2015, a University Chancellor told the audience that there were some 33 different systems used by the institution, but he did not know what they all were or what they did. These applications have been bought and used over a period and we should therefore not be naïve in thinking a solution is simple. I think clients are more aware now but who in this climate has the courage to stand up and air their asset management application issues?

A client might disclose a list of their applications, which they intend to populate otherwise you only have the AIR to rely upon.

What does the client need the data for?

what the data is needed for

The requirement for digital asset data must be asked for if it is to be used to populate PPM (Planned preventative maintenance), Estate, Space, Energy, Asset management applications. Each of these applications have different import formats but have overlapping common data fields. The emergence of a standard asset data exchange format emerged in the form of COBie to avoid each project having custom deliverables.

Beyond the basic validation

We work with our clients through the OIR (Organisational Information Requirement) process to deliver their own AIR library from which they can then pull into a project specific AIR. To accomplish this, we created our own AIR application which not only generates the AIR document for the EIR but it also provides custom templates for capture of Asset types and a digital AIR using the COBie schema. We use this digital AIR in both our product library application and PIM where we continually test data against the current work stage for systems. To make it even easier we can generate the asset type template again from the Product Library or PIM populated with data requiring the supply chain to just fill the gaps and or check the validity of what has been provided.

Let’s be pragmatic data and transfers

We should not expect the digital data to be feed directly into an application, many of the management software solutions are configurable which means each implementation can result in custom import formats. Many of the “FM” applications fail to adequately support native COBie, this in not like DXF or IFC.

How to help the Client

The guidance recommends that the client goes through process of Organisational Information Requirements and this gets digested into the Employer information Requirements which incorporates the Asset Information Requirements.


What this ought to be is gathering all interested parties together and listing out the applications. With each application you identify the data they need, and the quickest way to do this is be gathering the import data templates together and performing a table/field analysis. From this exercise it will be possible to identify where in the Cobie schema the data will come from and list out the additional information and or standard categories and naming nomenclatures. This forms the basis for the AIR and will cover several tables.

There are 3 approaches for the Client to in inform the construction team:

1.     Each application import template is populated as a requirement in the EIR.

a.     This puts the burden on the contractor and supply chain and will be different for each project regardless of clients using the same applications.

2.     COBie format is generated and validated against the AIR, it is the client’s responsibility for importing the data into their applications.

a.     Clients are not controlled by the construction managers and if the data does not work at the end of the project it will most likely not get fixed.

3.     COBie format is generated and validated against the AIR a mapping tool used to generate the import templates.

a.     If you don’t develop software, you will need to employ someone with this capability possibly as part of the Information manager role. The advantage is you are in control of the process. Once the mapping has been done, conversion can be run many times and is independent of client checking.

validation stages

If option 1 is elected, then option 3 can be implemented but the AIR will need to be developed and costed for.


By providing asset data which has integrity it will be used, maybe not straight away but this is a journey and varies for each party. Digital asset data, like all data, can be used for other purposes, see my article powerBI with COBie, and O&M document deliverables.

Final thought, maximising value out of data is dependent on the level of requirement planning, and we never plan to fail, just fail to plan.

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