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buildingSMART alliance The COBie2 Challenge

The COBie2 Challenge

DECEMBER 8, 2009
by E. William East, PhD, PE - Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Nicholas Nisbet MA (Cantab) DipArch (UNL) - AEC3

The Construction-Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie2) format facilitates the delivery of building information during planning, design, construction, and commissioning for delivery to facility owners and operators. The COBie2 format is an internationally harmonized version of the original COBie format. The 2009 AEC-EcoBuild Conference was the venue for the demonstration of software systems' compliance with COBie2. This page summarizes the results of the December 2009 COBIE Challenge. Linked to this page is detailed information and results from each of the participating vendors.

The event had two aims—to update the COBie Challenges held in July 2008 and March 2009 and to commence the preparation for Certification against the buildingSMART FM handover view.

COBie2 Challenge

COBie2 represents a refinement of the ideas behind CObie to make the format more comprehensive and more flexible. It has been internationalized, and made more accessible. Those categorizations and classifications that were specific to countries or regions can be swapped out. Internationalization also means supporting a broader range of units. Accessibility is improved by reducing the number of sheets, and making them more legible for review and correction. In particular, data from existing schedules can be more easily cut-and-pasted in.

The internationalization of the COBie2 exchange requirements into the FM Handover IFC Model View Definition (MVD) completed as part of this event expanded the set of vendors participating in the delivery of computable FM Handover information. The challenge allowed vendors to show their applications in use, both as providers of COBie2 information and as consumers of COBie2 information. The challenge included showing a small building, changing some information and showing the range of information available in COBie2.

The CObie2 specification clauses allow the owner/operator to satisfy a number of progressively more demanding use-cases, starting with basic spatial compliance and culminating in the setting up of the operation and maintenance tasks for the facility.

buildingSMART FM Handover View

Applications can support buildingSMART IFC interoperability in many ways. The principal use-case (or Model View Definition) implemented in software to date has been to allow users to detect the physical collision of building elements. The specification for that first IFC MVD is called the Coordination View. The 'Facility Management Handover' view addresses the non-graphic information expected to be captured during the project and delivered to the building manager, along with the keys to the building.

buildingSMART international certifies software against published Model Views. The meeting in December 2009 was the "warm-up" event for vendors wishing to become certified by the buildingSMART international. The first Certification round is planned for Spring 2010.

Certification and Challenge

An international effort started in the summer of 2009 and successfully aligned the data requirements for 'COBie2' and a German only model view (FM-10) to produce the international 'FM Handover' model view as the needed IFC model subset. The model view proved to be the key document for the software vendors, but for the user of COBie2 information, there a number of key business rules that, while not mandatory within the FM Handover model view, are critical to the effective use of design and construction information for facility and asset managers. These items include:

  1. The definition of which elements of the facility will become managed assets will be affected by the nature of the project and client. For the Challenge a definition was used that excluded fabric elements and fixings, but included doors, windows, furniture, fittings and both loose equipment and fixed equipment such as distribution terminals and plant. The ultimate use of COBie2 would require clients to identify the minimum list of objects they need to manage in their facilities.
  2. At some point in the design, build, and operate sequence, every managed asset will acquire a unique identifier. Within software applications this may be provided by a system-generated 22 character globally unique identifier, but during exchanges and when the data is in use, having a unique but readable name is critical for the humans who must, in the final analysis, use the information produced by software systems.
  3. It is most practical if manufacturers, suppliers and warrantors and the design and construction team are ultimately identified through their email addresses. While complete physical address and voice contact information are also provided, an individual's or company's email is used as the key to ensure that if there is a problem, there will be someone to help.

The distinction here is between the 'maximum capability' of the applications to deliver, and testing the owner/operators 'minimum requirement'. Under IFC Certification procedures systems maybe identified as being "certifiable" but the supplementary business rules are needed to ensure the provision of information that is of most use to a facility manager.

This dichotomy is useful for software companies since the software company is not held responsible for useful COBie2 data if their product used poorly. From the point of view of those receiving COBie2 deliverables as part of contract specifications, this distinction can only be described as 'academic'. The best that can be said for buildingSMART certification processes, in their current framework, is that they provide a necessary, but insufficient, criteria for information interoperability.

COBie2 Challenge Criteria

COBie2 contracted information delivery requirement is met by a combination of testing the 'FM Handover' view and testing the specific business rules. These business rules have been described as "compliance" and "quality" issues. COBie2 compliance issues address information model integrity and consistency. COBie2 quality assessments determine the expected value of the COBie2 information to the facility manger. The figures below list these criteria.

COBie2 Compliance Issues
Unique [Sheet] names [Value] is not unique NON COMPLIANT Data integrity
[Sheet] relationship [Row] [Column] makes reference to an unknown [OtherSheet] named [Value] NON COMPLIANT Relational integrity
[Sheet] mandatory data [Sheet] [Column] is mandatory but [Value] is insufficient for [Row] ADEQUATE COMPLIANCE Data requirements
Format [Sheet] [Format] [Value] is not a [format] NON COMPLIANT Data format

These are the four types of Compliance Issue detected.

COBie2 Quality Assessment
Classification of Spaces Percent ... the spaces through functional classification. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Number of Spaces Number ... a useful number of spaces. > 1.0 > 2.0 > 4.0
Average Spaces per Zone Number ... the spaces through their zones. > 1.0 > 3.0 (or no zones) > 9.0
Unique names for Systems, Zones, Floors and Spaces Percent ... the clearly named groups. > 90% > 99% > 99.9%
Classification of Types Percent ... the asset types through classification. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Asset Types not proxied Percent ... the asset types through their well-specified types. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Average Asset Components per Type Number ... the assets through their types. > 1.0 > 3.0 > 9.0
Unique names for Asset Types Percent ... the clearly named asset types. > 70% > 80% > 90%
Classification of Internal and External Doors and Windows Percent ... the external doors and windows. (IsExternal true/false property) > 10% > 30% (or no doors and windows) > 90%
Asset Components not proxied Percent ... the asset components using well specified objects. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Asset Components having Type Percent ... the asset components through defined types. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Average Asset Components per System Number ... the asset components through their systems. > 1.0 > 3.0 (or no systems) > 9.0
Asset Components assigned to Spaces Percent ... the asset components through their assigned spaces. > 10% > 30% > 90%
Unique names for Asset Components Percent ... the clearly named asset components. > 70% > 80% > 90%
Number of Contacts Number ... a useful number of contacts and object history. > 0.0 > 2.0 > 4.0

These are the 15 Quality Assessments measured.

It was also felt that the business interest of the owner/operator should be represented by assessing the delivered data, not only absolutely as pass/fail but also in a more graduated response noting adequate, good and excellent compliance. These graduations were set to reflect the time likely to be needed to manually remedy any deficiencies.

So, for example, the presence of repeated names on components was reported as non-compliance, but if the substantial majority of names were unique then this was measured as perhaps contributing to an excellent qualitative assessment.

At this stage, many vendors proved unfamiliar with intentions of contracted in formation delivery and so were unwilling to have a side-by-side public display of the results. Reviewers of this demonstration can of course conduct their own side-by-side comparison of results. For example most applications provide only rudimentary representation of the active designer and change control and, because they do not support the merging in of supplementary data, only scant details of the design history in the model.

Other areas that vendors had difficulty demonstrating included support for Zones (collections of Spaces), Systems (collections of Components) and Types (collections of similar Components). These concepts are crucial to the effective management of assets, not to mention the effective management of construction and design.

In order to fully evaluate the quality of a COBie2 deliverable, beyond that evaluation provided by a potential buildingSMART certification two types of criteria were applied in an automated checking routine that is freely available, as the bimServices program.

Certification Results

Certification is planned to take place later in 2010. At that event, a broader range of test cases will be needed, to include full MEP systems, complex spatial arrangements such as atria, and curtain walls are tested.

Software vendors seeking IFC Certification should contact the Implementers Support Group of the buildingSMART international organization for the timing and requirements for all future IFC certification events.

The emphasis of the Dec 2009 demonstration was on both compliance with the IFC MVD, and the business rules required by the COBie2. Of the eight COBie2 contractual exchanges, four cover the design stage and four for the construction and commissioning. The ‘FM Handover’ MVD covered the first four of the eight specified information exchanges.

Introductory Presentations

The following overview presentations were made at the start of the session:

The Results

The results of this event were published based on if the software system was a producer or consumer of COBie2 information. The first two tables are the software that produced IFC FM Handover or COBie2 files. In the majority of these cases IFC data in STEP file format was produced. The second table is the list of software that demonstrated the consumption of IFC FM Handover or COBie2 data. In the majority of these cases, the software consumed COBie2 data in spreadsheet format.

Both tables below provide links to each of the software systems materials presented at the session, native files used as the basis for the demonstration, suppliers’ files were translated to both ifcXML and COBie2 spreadsheet format, and the results obtained.

Company Product CountryMarketPresentationRESULTSProducer/
Bentley Architecture US Design PPT RESULTS Producer FM MVD IFC
Graphisoft ArchiCAD Hungary Design Not provided RESULTS Producer FM MVD IFC
Granlund RYHTI Finland FM PPT RESULTS Consumer FM MVD IFC
Onuma OPS US Multiple PDF RESULTS Producer &
SMB Morada Germany FM PPT RESULTS Consumer Spreadsheet
TMA TMA US FM PPT RESULTS Consumer Spreadsheet
Vizelia Facility Online France FM PPT RESULTS Consumer FM MVD IFC
Tokmo Tokmo US Construction PPT RESULTS Consumer Spreadsheet

Lessons Learned

At the July 2008 Building Information Exchange Demonstration there was concern voiced by some vendors that COBie was not compatible with international IFC MVD requirements. Certification against the core requirements of the 'FM Handover' MVD can now be certified by the buildingSMART international. Now that the COBie2 format has been established as a human-readable format of the international FM Handover MVD the concern has been resolved.

Future COBie2 Challenges can now focus on demonstrations of compliance against COBie2 contract deliverable requirements, and in particular on rigorous enforcement of the business rules. Qualitative assessment will focus on assessing a time score indicating the amount of time required to manually repair the COBie2 file submitted.

A web-based COBie2 checker, similar to that produced for the July 2008 meeting, is currently under discussion at NIBS and is expected to be used as the basis of the next COBie2 Challenge.

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