buildingSMART alliance Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie) Project

Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie)


Chair, COBie Task Group
Michael Tardif, Assoc. AIA, LEED®AP

What is COBie?

COBie is an information exchange specification for the life-cycle capture and delivery of information needed by facility managers. COBie can be viewed in design, construction, and maintenance software as well as in simple spreadsheets. This versatility allows COBie to be used all projects regardless of size and technological sophistication.

For more information, please view this movie.

Why COBie?

At the financial completion of construction projects the construction manager typically delivers a truck-full of boxes of paper (or CD's containing e-paper) to the facility manager. It is assumed that this information can assist the facility manager to maintain, operate, and track assets within the building. More often than not, however, this information is delivered months or years after the building has been occupied and placed in a storage room where it is never used.

To create this information the builder must recreate a significant amount of information that was originally created by designers and manufacturers. For example construction submittals must be copied and bound. Designer data about equipment names and location must be recreated. The builder must conduct a site survey at the end of the project to obtain equipment serial numbers captured on delivery tickets.

The majority of the information currently provided to facility managers is not used. Man-years of effort are required by large owners to enter simple lists of equipment, warranties, and replacement parts providers into their maintenance and asset management systems. Customized preventive maintenance plans created at the end of the construction project, developed by highly skilled commissioning engineers, are often not used since these cannot be easily loaded into maintenance software.

The COBie specification identifies the content of the information that must be captured and exchanged at each phase of the project to begin to reduce the waste associated with the current paper process. The designer is required to provide the space layout, system list, types of equipment, and the location of named equipment. The builder adds equipment make, model and serial number and provides manufacturer literature, warranty and replacement parts information. The commissioning agent provides the job plan data with associated tools, training and equipment requirements.

Who developed COBie?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy provided the first two grants that started this project in 2005. The Facility Maintenance and Operations Committee of the National Institute of Building Sciences formed a project team representing designers, builders, owners, commissioning agents and software firms to identify the requirements for the information exchanges needed during construction to operations handover.   Between 2005 and 2009 COBie has grown from an initial idea to an internationally recognized standard implemented in commercial software across the globe.  The COBie project has been led by the Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory -- a laboratory of the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers.  

A Contracted Information Exchange

COBie specifications may be found in Department of State, Overseas Buildings Operations office, General Services Administration, and Corps of Engineers contracts and proposals. To find contracts currently open for bid that specifically identify COBIE requirements, please visit Fed Biz Ops and search using the keyword "cobie" and a posting date of "Last 365 days." You may contact your local federal agencies contracting office for more specific information about local COBIE implementations. 

An International Standard

Successful commercial implementations of COBie have been demonstrated many times since July 2008. For links to these exchanges, please see the COBie page on the Whole Building Design Guide for a complete listing of past and upcoming events.

In July 2008, participants expressed interest in a fully international version of COBie specification. In Dec 2009 the COBie team released the international COBie and the Facility Management Handover Model View Definition formats. The FM Handover MVD is only the second official MVD published through the buildingSMART international. COBie is now mandated for public building projects in the United Kingdom.

Where to Start?

Additional Resources


Creative Commons License
Construction-Operations Building information exchange by buildingSMART alliance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

References to this work should be in the form of: East, E. William (2012) "Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie)," buildingSMART alliance, National Institute of building Sciences, Washington, DC. (cited DD-MMM-YYYY).

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