buildingSMART alliance Spatial Compliance Information Exchange (SCIE) Project

Spatial Compliance Information Exchange (SCie)

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


Public projects typically follow specific steps from the point at which an installation or organization determines they need new infrastructure to the point at which the infrastructure is approved to be built. These steps are needed to ensure that the projects have appropriate scope for the intended mission and that the project is a high enough priority to allocate scarce taxpayer funds. After the scoping document(s) are reviewed through the agency, they are routed to government legislative branches responsible for the approval of a project. There are two final steps in the approval process. The first step is the "authorization" to complete the project within the defined scope of work. The second step is the "appropriation" of funds that will allow the design and construction of that specific project. The appropriation often includes some level of contingency funding as well as the time line in which the project must be completed. Once funds are appropriated, the public agencies, through a wide number of different contracting vehicles, procure design and construction services which ultimately lead to occupancy of the required physical infrastructure.

A brief review of the size of the public facility management problem is useful to motivate the need for a formalized exchange of spatial programming compliance. In April 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the Department of Defense's (DoD) facility management procedures in a report entitled, "Continued Management Support is needed to Support Installation Facilities and Operation." According to this report, managers at Department of Defense facilities are responsible for 577,000 structures that fall into one of 448 facility types located in 5,300 installations worldwide. The replacement value of this infrastructure is $712B. The annual operations and maintenance budget for DoD is $55B. As a point of reference, the Central Intelligence Agency World Book places the DoD operations and maintenance budget to be equivalent as the 85th highest countries' Gross Domestic Product.

Despite best efforts to manage these publically funded properties effectively, the GAO reported that "the Army and the Navy had not verified the accuracy of about 39 percent and 59 percent, respectively, of their real property inventory records." The lack of accurate records results in a self-reinforcing cycle that limits facility managers to identify personnel shortfalls that would assist in resolution of real property management problems. To address these problems the Department of Defense is currently undertaking a number of different efforts to enable real-time, reliable, and secure access to facility information. While these efforts are focused on top-down definition of minimum reporting requirements, it is critical that information fed to these systems be provided directly by the authoritative sources who initially created the information. From the point of view of facility assets, this means that the DoD's vision is for data acquisition to begin when the information is created and allow that data to seamlessly be integrated within DoD's systems to provide synergistic value as information is aggregated at higher organizational echelons.

Generic Version of GSA BIM Guide

While the previous introduction section focused on DoD facilities, the problem of accurately capturing the facilities' functional capabilities is of critical importance to all public agencies alike. The GSA BIM Guide for Spatial Program Validation has been widely recognized as the first detailed requirement for the delivery of 3-D designs containing owner-specified data. While other public agencies have considered directly adopting the GSA Spatial Program Validation guide, the guide contains several agency-specific requirements that would not be appropriate for agencies outside the GSA. These include GSA-specific space function codes, space measurement standards, specifically named zoning requirements for all buildings, and GSA-specific tenant codes.

As public agencies participate in the buildingSMART Alliance it is critical that these agencies recognize that they will not be able to including their own agency-specific requirements into standards identified in the National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS). Mapping from agency specific requirements into agency- and vendor-neutral formats is required. For example in the GSA guide, GSA-specific space function codes would have been replaced with the OmniClass Table 13, Spaces by Function (reference).

The Spatial Compliance Information Exchange format is a "generic" version of the GSA Space Planning Guide.

Spatial Compliance Requirements

Space documentation form example

The International Alliance for Interoperability project "Early Design" (AR-5) project conducted requirements analysis of the information needed for a variety of early design tasks, including verification of spatial compliance. A link to the AR-5 project report may be found at the bottom of this document. As part of this analysis, several key sets of data were identified by evaluating the types of documents used to exchange information during early design.

One of the first steps in early design is to identify the requirements for the spaces that need to be included in the facility. Spatial requirements are driven by the type of building needed, location of the building, team's knowledge of similar buildings, and code or other agency programming requirements or criteria. Deliberations about these spaces are documented in forms such as that shown to the right. (Reference: Evans, Benjamin, Wheeler, C. Herbert, "Emerging Techniques 2" Architectural Programming," American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC 1969.)

Example of blocking and stacking diagram

Using the list of required rooms "blocking and stacking" diagrams are used to communicate how similar functions within the building are to be organized. This organization takes into account a variety of often conflicting requirements such as required adjacencies, building services considerations, variations in building access and zoning requirements. An example blocking diagram is shown to the left.

Using the generic layout of the building spaces initial estimates of the cost of the building can be created. These estimates are documented in an "architectural program" or "project brief." An example, the project brief for a small Army medical facility is illustrated in the figure below. The description of the facility includes a specific list of the number of different types of rooms to be built and the minimum level of quality to which the rooms must conform.

Form DD1391

Using the generic layout of the building spaces initial estimates of the cost of the building can be created. These estimates are documented in an "architectural program" or "project brief." An example, the project brief for a small Army medical facility is illustrated in the figure below. The description of the facility includes a specific list of the number of different types of rooms to be built and the minimum level of quality to which the rooms must conform.

This "DD1391" form is the form used by DoD installation managers to request funding for a project. Once the funding is requested and approved by Congress, then the project must be built within the constraints imposed by the project brief. Failure to do so, as evidenced by significant cost overruns requires the agency to ask for additional funds from Congress. Until additional funds are appropriated, the project must wait—incurring associated delay costs—until the revised project brief has been approved. Needless to say, every effort is made to ensure that projects are kept within the scope approved by Congress.

Spatial Compliance Information Requirements

The evaluation of requirements for building handover identified that construction handover documents contain operations, maintenance, and asset management data (reference COBIE technical report) demonstrated that the building owner needs spatial compliance information during the entire life-cycle of the building. Since this information may change during the project, the COBIE specification requires that the information be provided at each major design deliverable. The diagram below illustrates that spatial compliance data is provided automatically as part of a COBIE information exchange.

Diagram of spatial compliance data

Based on the diagram above, one can see that a stand-alone specification for a Spatial Compliance Information Exchange (SCIE) would be the COBIE specification with only those aspects of the COBIE specification that pertain to space lists, space function, space area measurements, and spatial zoning can be identified within a simplified COBIE spreadsheet. As a project progresses from design concept to construction completion and handover this data would need to be provided to ensure that the building was not deviating from the initial project scope.

The Contact worksheet is used to document who provided the information in the deliverable. The Facility worksheet is used to distinguish between facilities, if more than one facility is included in the project. Note that the Facility worksheet also includes a location for an owner-provided facility ID number. That owner-provided facility ID number may be used by enterprise-wide information systems to collect and collate data without additional human assistance.

The Floor worksheet allows the architect to document those floor area measurements required in the contract documents. Since there may be areas in which assets are located outside the physical envelop of a building "floors" for roof and exterior areas should also be provided. Floor spatial measurement data required in the COBIE specification may be derived through the addition of all data for spaces of each floor using a spreadsheet formula.

The 04-Space worksheet is the heart of the Spatial Compliance Information Exchange (SCIE). Within the Space worksheet the list of all rooms (and contiguous sub-spaces) are identified. Spaces are classified according to their OmniClass Room Function Codes. Application of data in the optional Attributes worksheet allows users to identify circulation, privacy, security, fire protection, historical preservation, and other zoning classification. Through color coding these zones in software, a significant amount of hand drawings currently being done today may be replaced with computer generated sketches. The specific requirements for the types of zoning needed for a given project are, according to the SCIE specification, left to the definitions provided in a given contract specification.

Diagram of space measurements

Accurate space measurements are a critical concern to facility managers who collect lease payments from tenants. Until recently, two leading North American facility management organizations the Building Owners and Managers Association ( and the International Facilities Management Association ( had competing definitions for ways to measure space. (Diagram from Report to ASTM Subcommittee E-6.25, by Subcommittee E06.25 Whole Buildings and Facilities, used by permission of Gerald Davis, Chair)

These standards included precise definitions that take into account the impact of window sills and equipment such as fan coil heating units have on the square footage for rent that could be charged. After several years of work the two organizations have harmonized their space measurement standard. The resulting standard is currently included in American Standards and Testing Materials (ASTM) E 1836-01, "Standard Practice for Building Floor Area Measurements for Facility Management." More information on these harmonized standards may be obtained from Mr. Gerald Davis ( The American National Standards Institute standard covering this topic is also in the process of being updated.

The optional Coordinate worksheet can be employed as part of the Spatial Compliance Information Exchange deliverable to deliver blocking and stacking diagrams of the project. The Coordinate worksheet employs the same local references and bounding-box geometry as that provided by the underlying IFC model. As a result, SCIE deliverables containing Coordinate data can be viewed within an IFC model viewer.

Finally, many owners with large portfolios, such as the DoD and GSA, will want to ensure that spatial data for individual projects are aggregated into facility inventory management systems. SCIE has a provision to provide the owner provided globally unique facility identifier that will automatically link as-designed and as-built project data to the overall portfolio management system. Provided the portfolio systems include the functionality to read COBIE/SCIE files directly, no additional data entry is required to accurately capture asset management system created as part of a project's deliverables.

Specifying the SCIE

There are two ways to require the SCIE in your contracts. The first way is to require a stand-alone deliverable of the spatial compliance data. The specification for this stand-alone deliverable has been prepared and is provided under the reference sections at the bottom of this page.

The second way to require the delivery of SCIE data is to update the appropriate sections of the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE) specification. As noted in the introduction section of this page, the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange contains not only operations and management information but also the required asset information needed to meet the requirements of the SCIE specification. Modification to the COBIE specification at the places noted in the COBIE specification will result in the delivery of a data COBIE file that may also be used to verify spatial compliance.

Meeting the Specification

Designers and builders whose contracts include the SCIE specification are able to create a SCIE file by one of the following 3 methods:

  1. Manual entry of the SCIE worksheets using the COBIE template provided on the Whole Building Design Guide. As the project progresses identify any changes in the design that would impact the SCIE worksheets and submit the updated worksheet when specified.
  2. Build or utilize 2-D design software add-on programs that allow the categorization of space function and associated attributes.
  3. Utilize Building Information Modeling software that has been tested for compliance against the SCIE specification.
  4. Utilize 3rd party Building Information Modeling consultancy firms to prepare and submit the SCIE deliverables during the project.

Regardless of the solution being used, a correct submission of the SCIE file is, in part, a quantitative evaluation of the data file consistency. The SCIE file must also be evaluated qualitatively to ensure that the data in the file is consistent with the overall project information.

Verifying Compliance

Compliance with the SCIE specification depends on correctly completing COBIE worksheets 01-04 being correctly completed. Optionally, worksheets 08-Atributes and 09-Coordinates may also be completed.

The rules used to check for SCIE file consistency are the same as those used for the COBIE worksheets. An automated program has been created for the evaluation of SCIE file consistency. This checker cannot evaluate the correctness of the building model data contained in the file, but does evaluate the consistent application of the SCIE worksheet rules. A separate WBDG page discusses the automated SCIE/COBIE checker.

Once a SCIE file has successfully passed the format and consistency requirements evaluated in the automated checker, qualitative rules should be applied. These qualitative rules cannot be automatically applied the evaluation of rules depend on the specifics of the project. The rules are:

  1. Name information should be recognizably real and distinct: All contact, facility, floor and spaces must be systematically and accurately named.
  2. Floor levels must be accurately documented. A minimum of one floor record should be provided for exterior or site work. A minimum of one floor record should be provided for the roof level of each building.
  3. Floor-to-floor heights can be accurately obtained from floor elevations.
  4. Space function must be documented by a selection of the appropriate, or owner specified, OmniClass space function code.
  5. Space area measures must be provided. The calculation standard used to measure spaces must be identified.
  6. If aggregated spaces are provided in the file, aggregated spaces shall not contain area measurements.
  7. Space areas can be accurately totaled to give the floor area totals.

Software Supporting SCIE

In July 2008 a demonstration of software vendor ability to produce compliant SCIE files was conducted by the buildingSMART Alliance, the Federal Facility Council, and the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers. To allow vendors to differentiate their products from other presenters during the demonstration, vendors were allowed to choose their own building model. These models are all available, as are vendor presentations and software configuration instructions (if provided by the vendors) through links on this page. The objective of providing this complete set of information is to ensure that readers are able to follow vendor instructions to reproduce the results achieved during the July 2008 demonstration.

Vendors demonstrated two approaches to creating sample SCIE files. Each of these approaches, as well as vendors' results, are provided in the paragraphs below.

Extended IFC 2x3 Coordination View Approach

The first approach was for the vendors to extend their existing IFC 2x3 Coordination Model View file to include SCIE requirements. Following the submission of the extended IFC 2x3 Coordination view, supplemental processing was required to extract those information elements needed to create the required COBIE worksheets. The free ifcCOBIE program was used for supplemental processing between the IFC Express notation provided in the extended IFC 2x3 Coordination View and the COBIE Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet XML (2003).

The following links provide the evaluation of the SCIE files created by the noted commercial software to produce the SCIE files via an extended IFC 2x3 Coordination View. The software companies are listed in alphabetical order.

Direct Submission Approach

The second approach taken was for the software companies to directly create the required COBIE spreadsheets from within their software systems.



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