buildingSMART alliance Electrical System information exchange (Sparkie) Project

Electrical System information exchange (Sparkie)


Bill East
(217) 373-6710


The Engineer Research and Development Center, working with subject matter experts and software companies, lead the development of a domain-independent facility control framework enabling improved management and control of facilities and the resources that they consume. This framework includes

  1. the definition of the expected resources required
  2. components, assemblies and systems using these required resources
  3. a feedback loop which compares plan resources to actual resource use


The objective of the Sparkie project is to provide an open-standard format for the components, assemblies, and connections that distribute and use electricity within a facility.


Date Milestone
April 2010Project began at ERDC
February 2011Electrical domain modeling requirements identified
June 2013Publication of Model View Definition
June 2013Demonstration MVD Application
June 2013Release of Common Model Examples
September 2013Release of on-line documentation
September 2013Submission of NBIMS-US V3 Ballot


All "ie" projects begin with a requirements analysis focusing on the essential elements needed to create a performance-based specification for the delivery of shared, structured building information. This analysis identified three essential artifacts of Construction Document stage design drawings. These three critical components are:

  • Fixture Schedules—identifies end-points of the electrical system, such as lights, outlets, transformers, equipment disconnects, etc…
  • Distribution Panel Schedules—identifies assemblies needed to route power from the building's service disconnect to the end-points
  • Feeder Schedules—identifies connections between the components and panels, or panel and panel

The model for Sparkie is slightly different from that of other distribution systems. The reason is that designers rarely provide exact locations for distribution elements (i.e. feeders) in the electrical domain. Such information is generally only found in sketched notations on the drawings. As a result, Sparkie data model in COBie can be thought of as the list of types and components for equipment, panels, breakers, and feeders with the assembly tab being used to represent distribution panels and the connections describing each electrical circuit created by the feeders.


The application of Sparkie requires that modelers consider how information currently split between multiple models is to be merged into a single model describing this complete electrical system. One approach to merge multiple models that may contain the same components was proposed by the buildingSMART alliance and used as part of the Jan 2013 bSa Challenge. This merging algorithm may be found here.

At a minimum, common naming and classification of system components will likely be needed. Owners and modelers will also need to be explicit about those components that should be considered to be part of the electrical system and those components that are considered to be consumers. The connections between such devices should, in the short term, identify electrical distribution panel name and circuit number, however, a full Sparkie implementation would identify the specific outlet or service disconnect to which an electrical consumer would draw its power.

Although Sparkie is new and most Building Information Modeling software does not claim to have extensive IFC 2X3 export support for MEP systems the results released in 2013 indicated that more than half of the included concepts were successfully exported to IFC. As the requirement to deliver shared, structured information about electrical systems becomes established by building owners and managers it is expected that additional work on Sparkie will improve the results obtained in 2013.

Additional Resources


Creative Commons License
Building Programming 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 (2013) "Electrical System information exchange (Sparkie)," buildingSMART alliance, National Institute of building Sciences, Washington, DC."/?page=bsa_sparkie (cited DD-MMM-YYYY).

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