COBie. A Truly Simple Explanation


August 12, 2015

Don’t worry. COBie is just an XML spreadsheet.

Although it may sound strange and unfamiliar COBie is actually a very simple and clear format for delivering building asset data. It is just an XML spreadsheet file with some rules on the structuring and content of the provided data.

Interconnected entries.

The COBie spreadsheet contains several tabs which list information on the building’s facilities, floors, spaces, systems, installed equipment, documents etc. Every entry in a worksheet is connected with another one from another worksheet which basically says “The window XY is in room Z” or “Room Z is on the Nth floor”.

COBie is for you and you, and you, and you.

It is intended to work as a convenient reference on information that is otherwise hidden into the huge amount of drawings and files accompanying a construction project. This makes it a very useful tool for owners, facility managers and maintenance personnel – people who were not involved in the construction process and aren’t interested with every nitty-gritty detail of it but need this data output for their day-to-day tasks.

COBie is also a machine-readable format.

COBie’s structured format of representation is also useful for cost estimators and contractors. The predictable order of the data takes it even a step further – it meaning that it can be used not only for information output, but also input. Sometimes small corrections need to be implemented to the model on the go. This can be done just by adding or editing a couple of rows and importing the COBie sheet back in the model to reflect the changes.

Keep your money in your wallet.

As we mentioned before COBie is basically an XML export of the building model that can be generated through fairly simple software applications many of which are free-of-charge. This means that construction companies will not be obliged to invest money in new software to comply with the new requirements to provide COBie handover – usually just a quick training for the employees would be enough.

IF we can do it, so can you.

In fact just recently here in CoBuilder we tried to implement a COBie spreadsheet to record values of product properties submitted by manufacturers into our data-bases. With just a few brief explanations our data-entry employees, who were not exposed to COBie prior this in any way, were able work out how to read and where to enter the submitted data.

COBie from US to UK… to the world

COBie has been in the USA for a couple of years now and it certainly hasn’t caused chaos in the industry there. Being able to be stored and read on any device supporting XML format COBie is outpacing the old cumbersome storage of data on paper. A simple flash drive can store COBie sheets from multiple project stages, from multiple projects! The easy-to-read information has proved very useful for the facility managers in the US. This success is probably one of the reasons that urged the British government to make COBie handover mandatory after 1st of January 2016 for all construction projects in the UK.

When in doubt, ask Bill.

Of course this was just an outline of COBie. Many detailed explanations about its inner workings and mechanics are provided in a series of presentations by Bill East – the creator of COBie himself. There, we mentioned him after all.

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