COBie and Interoperability
Remember, remember COBie Carl and the huge piles of documents around him… why do we still have him on slides? Well, because his picture still represents the reality in many cases and COBie (what is COBie?) still needs to be talked about in the industry.
What is COBie?
Let’s start by explaining that COBie is a data structure neatly organized in XML spreadsheet report of the building model. It contains detailed information on the location and characteristics of the products used in the building. COBie makes the life of facility management and maintenance personnel so much easier, by providing a convenient reference to information that is otherwise hidden deep into the drawings and files accompanying the construction project. Is it the best solution? The industry is deep in discussion, but definitely as it is the solution we have right now – it is worth our deeper understanding for the time being.
COBie and interoperability
In our new video we have Cobuilder UK’s CEO Nick Tune discusses COBie and how it addresses the issue of interoperability in the construction industry. According to him, most of the BIM level 2 standards are around processes and better ways of working collaboratively, but at the end in PAS1192 – 4, it all goes down to drawing the best practice in sharing actual data. He explains that the government mandated COBie as an interoperable format for sharing product information in a structured way. The COBie deliverable is supposed to be passed on to the client at handover as it contains all the non-graphical information of the building or infrastructure that is needed for the management and operation of the building asset.
It practically means that COBie allows everybody to find whatever information they need about the building, effectively unifying the various outputs and formats into a single format that everyone can understand. Nick Tune points out that COBie is in fact a subset of IFC without the geometrical part of it.
COBie needs the bSDD
He stresses that the format, being simply a data structure by itself, does not guarantee complete accuracy between and understanding between supply chain players and systems. Many times different platforms have different terminology for products and without the development and use of tools such as the buildingSMART Data Dictionary, functional interoperability couldn’t be achieved. What it does is that it maps between different definitions and understandings, making the actual interoperability possible.
On a different note, he explains, that there’s been the development of Uniclass and Omniclass classification system, so if everyone in the UK uses Uniclass for instance, we would have the same terminology for products, but it does not mean that we would be saying the same things about the properties associated with those products. What COBie does is that it effectively solves interoperability issues over software language, but in terms of terminology and technical language within that COBie should be handled with care.
Since all coBuilder’s systems are fully integrated with the bSDD, the COBie deliverable exported through Cobuilder Collaborate (previously ProductXchange) – the tool for contractors, meets the requirements for both aspects of interoperability – technical language and software. Moreover, what makes Cobuilder’s solutions unique is the ability to provide the actual information about the real products and their specifications. This is possible thanks to our experience and the database we have built, which is essential for a proper and practically useful COBie handover.
Interoperability for a global construction industry
Nick Tune concludes that it is of big importance for the UK, to have the above in mind and use tools such as the Building Smart Data Dictionary that allows mapping between definitions and other classifications of products and elements in COBie, in order to able to work at the global level.