COBie and IFC

The Government and an ever increasing private sector client base are committed to Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the use of open-standard data to deliver greater value and be more efficient.

The open-standard data format required for level 2 BIM is a combination of COBie and IFC data schema. OPEN BIM technologies, such as buildingSMART International’s Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), have been developed over many years and exist with the sole aim of enabling interoperability throughout the BIM process.

COBie is the abbreviation of Construction Operations Building Information Exchange, a specification used in the handover of Facility Management information. It is a spreadsheet data format for the delivery of a subset of building model information, rather than geometric model information.

Diagram from Page 61 of the BIS BIM Strategy Paper

On a BIM project the requirement is to complete the COBie spreadsheets and pass them to the client at predetermined information exchange points, or data drops. The timing of the data drops will vary depending upon the requirements of individual clients to suit their internal processes and approvals. However, the following is typical of both public and private sector clients based on current available evidence.

The first data drop represents the requirements and constraints. The data available at drop 1 is broadly consistent with that expected at RIBA Stage B – Feasibility (i.e. the client brief). The rationale for the data drop is to approve the ‘Overall Business Case’ – checks will be made to ensure the design and specifications are consistent with the brief in terms of function, cost and carbon.

The data available at the second data drop is broadly consistent with that expected at RIBA Stage D. The rationale for data drop 2 is to select the Main Contractor. Checks are made to ensure the interpreted design and specifications are consistent with the client brief and that the potential suppliers and supply chain can demonstrate capability and integrity to deliver the asset.

The data available at drop 3 is broadly consistent with that expected at RIBA Stage F. The rationale for the data drop is to approve the ‘Agreed Maximum Price’ or ‘Works Order’.

The data available at drop 4 is broadly consistent with that expected at RIBA Stage K. The rationale for this data drop is to take possession of the ‘Operations and Management’ Information. The data being collected is the operational and detailed functional information supplied by the product manufacturers.

There are a number of ways to generate COBie data, for example:

  1. Manually – Clearly this is not a realistic option for an entire building. But for a manufacturer’s product range, the manufacturer could manually structure their product data sheets in COBie format using an everyday tool such as Microsoft Excel.
  2. Indirectly from the native model via IFC – It is possible to generate a COBie dataset automatically from an IFC model.

The requirement of COBie will also engage CIPHE Industrial Associates, Product Specifiers and Suppliers to develop OPEN format object data to support the specification, selection and replacement process for level 2 BIM requirements.

To download the IFC/COBie report, please visit:
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