buildingSMART alliance COBie Case Studies

Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) Case Studies

MAY 5, 2011
By Bill East, PhD, PE, F.ASCE - Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Mike Kenig, Vice Chairman - Holder Construction Company, COAA COBie Pilot Chair

Executive Summary

For the United States capital facilities industry to reduce costs and overheads stemming from the continued, wasteful exchange of documents and adopt streamlined processes facilitated by open-standard building information formats, requires rigorous proofs. The Construction Owners Association of America (COAA) in conjunction with the buildingSMART alliance, and the Engineer Research and Development Center are engaged in a program of case studies on real projects to provide that proof. Case studies identified below are required to (1) map current design and construction processes targeted for waste reduction, (2) design and specify the improved process based using COBie, (3) predict the expected impact of these changes, and (4) follow these changes through an entire project to determine the actual impacts achieved. Because all information from these case studies will be publically published in a clear, consistent, and rigorous format those considering eliminating wasteful exchange of document-based deliverables will have a road map to follow and adapt to their own businesses.


Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) is one way to view the open international format for the exchange of facility management handover information. Along with COBie, a precise specification of what COBie data is required at which phase of a project has been developed through the Life-Cycle information exchange (LCie) effort. Given that COBie has been implemented by many software packages supporting planning, design, construction, commissioning, and handover LCie provides the process and contracting framework in which to implement COBie in practice.


Due to the unique qualities of each project and every site, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Owners, and Operators are very conservative when facing new technologies. Those technologies that directly replace labor are relatively easy to adopt, compared to those technologies that change the way that work is accomplished. For example, a builder is able to calculate the direct cost of labor savings resulting from the replacement of a hammer with that of a roofer's nail gun. Technologies that change the process of work are much more difficult to evaluate since the cost of doing business is typically contained in waste factors built into productivity or hidden in overheads. As long as everyone in an industry sector has the same relative measure of lost productivity and waste embedded in overhead there is little incentive to change. As one contractor recently commented to me, "Why should I do this, it will only decrease my fees?"


The primary objective is to objectively determine the benefits and costs of COBie during the project life-cycle. The secondary objective is to provide a rigorous, but reasonable, approach to evaluate business process change in the capital facilities industry.


The approach taken to develop these case studies is based on a clear definition of the exact problems to be solved. Too often such problems are described in only general terms. For example, a general problem related to facility management handover is the lack of information provided to facility mangers. Such a problem statement, however, cannot be evaluated since there is nothing to measure defined in the problem. Participants in these case studies have to unpack such general statements to get to waste that can be measured and eliminated. One of these more specific statements that could be included in the general problem related to the labor costs directly associated with the problem is "Eliminate all data entry costs into maintenance management and asset management systems." Another problem whose focus is the operational impact of not having such data is "Eliminate 90% of all additional maintenance worker trips to obtain special tools or relevant spare parts."

Before being accepted into the COBie Case Study program potential participants are required to identify between three and five measurable problem statements. To identify the source of these problems the candidates must map the processes that currently are used in a "swim lane diagram" format. This format shows the sequence of the activities (in a precedence diagram) with activities listed in horizontal bands, or swim lanes that identify the party currently responsible for the execution of that activity. In addition to the current process candidates must also identify the way in which specific steps and/or contents of these steps will be changed to resolve the problem being identified.

As these cases proceed, the candidates also agree to put in place the needed administrative processes or appropriate reporting tools to capture the metrics associated with the problems. To implement such processes the team members agree to prepare, execute, and share the relevant contract modifications needed to adopt these new practices. As each problem area is resolved the team members are also expected to publish a brief report describing their experiences.


COAA Case Study Candidates Workshop (March 2011)

COAA Spring Leadership Conference (May 2011)

COAA Fall Leadership Conference (Nov 2011)

Currently in planning.


For information about participating in future pilot project efforts please contact COAA's point of contact for this program, Mr. Mike Kenig at Holder Construction (

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