Saturday, July 14, 2012


The other day I was indulging my Internet addiction when I came across a link to a new document about a topic I’ve been ignoring for years, COBie. 

COBie is an acronym for Construction Operations Building information exchange.  

The new document, a draft of The COBie Guide, 2012-06-07  is available for download at  It’s free, so naturally I couldn’t resist it.

For those of you who have ignored COBie as I had, the document’s executive summary characterizes COBie as “...the United States standard for the exchange of information related to manage (should be managing, I think) building assets.”  They also say “COBie and this Guide may be thought of as a performance-based specification for the delivery of building information.”
COBie data spreadsheet files, after being fleshed out with detailed product information developed during the design and construction process, become information deliverables to the proud owner of the new building. COBie data files start out as spreadsheets of project information in the early phases of design, then progress through Design Development, Construction Documents, then to what the report calls Beneficial Occupancy, culminating in what the report calls As-Built files. Spec writers have long since deep-sixed "As-Built" and switched to the term "Field Record" to describe the final annotated specs and drawings.

So these COBie "deliverables" are sort of like electronic field record documents combined with O&M data files, I guess.

I figured I’d have to learn about this subject sooner or later, so I might as well delve into it now.

Since I’m a spec writer, the first question that occurred to me was “Where do I specify COBie deliverables?”  I figured the Specorati had already worked it out and I could just look up the answer.

So I looked in my usual places:

  • MasterFormat 2011 Update:  No mention of COBie; it's not even listed in the key word index.
  • CSI Practice Guide Glossary of Terms:  Ditto.
  • AIA MasterSpec:  I did a word search for COBie in what seemed to me to be the most likely places, Sections 017823 - OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE DATA, and 017839 - PROJECT RECORD DOCUMENTS.  No luck.
  • Then I looked at similar Division 01 spec sections in the Unified Facilities Guide Spec  (UFGS) on, figuring that since the GSA is in the forefront of BIM, BIM-related standards, and interoperability in general, I’d find something there.  Same result.

I guess specifying COBie deliverables is such a new topic that the Specorati haven’t had a chance to formalize a niche in MasterFormat yet.

My money’s on Section 017823 - OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE DATA.  Your thoughts?

In any case, I recommend you download and read The COBie Guide. COBie is part of your future in the AEC industry.
PS:  Since my firm has had some difficulty getting contractors to be diligent about other non-traditional but still contractual tasks such as LEED submittals, I’d suggest requiring an up-to-date log of the contractor's COBie data with each month’s pay request.  

Now I think I’ll review The COBie Guide and send the authors my comments.

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