BIM, COBIE, and Facilities Best Practices
Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 10:38PM
Toby Considine in Background

Best practices in building construction have moved from contractors working with simple sketches and schematics, even if prepared with computerized drafting tools, to a data-intensive approach wherein at each stage of design and, the deliverables are produced in a format such that the outputs from one stage can be used as inputs to the next. As information about each of these processes becomes machine-readable, each step in the process can be modeled and the model compared to the goals.

During design/construction phase, this has required considerable standardization to enable interoperability of tools. The fullest expression of these standards is the Industry Foundation Classes, of IFC, ( ), an ISO standard that has long been required for public buildings in Europe. The General Services Agency (GSA), the largest landlord in the world, has accepted only IFC-compliant submittals. In construction-speak, a submittal is anything for which the submitter would like to be paid. Because of this requirement, nearly ever large design and construction firm is able to handle the IFC requirement today.

In the last decade, there has been considerable focus on modeling building systems to understand their performance in advance of construction. Numerous initiatives such as DOE-2, LEED, and Green Buildings require building system modeling for full qualification. As more and more governments, agencies, and corporations mandate adherence to these standards (for example, ) this requirement is no longer exotic to architecture, engineering, and design firms.

More recently, the National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS or more familiarly BIM) has arisen as a more tightly specified off-shoot o f IFC with a focus on simultaneous support of life cycle data analysis, performance modeling, and easier compliance certification. In particular, a recent National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study that found identifiable costs of more that 18 Billion a year in the US due to inadequate interoperability between systems ( ) has spurred a lot of attention. BIM is a tightly specified off-shoot of IFC optimized for the design-construction life-cycle using the emerging data exchange standard of XML.

To achieve full value of the BIM, it must extend past acquisition into the operations of the building. The NIBS Facilities Maintenance and Operations Committee (FMOC) has is developing a framework that extend the BIM to include commissioning and operations, the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE). NASA, the point-agency in the FMOC for COBIE, has extended an invitation to UNC to be the primary University participant in COBIE. FIATECH, a construction industry consortium, has described the benefits of an integrated life-cycle data management for each facility in its paper on the Intelligent Self-maintaining and Repairing Operational Facility (

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
See website for complete article licensing information.