COBie for all ARCHICAD users

In 2011 the UK government announced that from 4 April 2016 that all centrally procured projects would need to deliver what is referred to as BIM Level 2. Over the intervening years the standards, guidance and processes have been developed to allow the industry to formulate a consistent approach to BIM.

bs1192-4-cobieWhilst the BIM Level 2 agenda was developed by the BIM Task Group for government projects, many private projects are now using these standards, guidance and processes to take advantage of this consistent approach which aims to provide better outcomes for projects.

One of the core documents that forms part of the BIM Level 2 suite in the UK is BS 1192-4:2014 which sets out the standardised data requirements for information to be handed over for Facilities Management.  This standardised data format is called COBie, which is short for Construction-Operations Building information exchange. This data structure aims to capture information that is already present in traditional processes and allow it to be handed over in a consistent manner in a digital format.

COBie is typically expressed as a spreadsheet but the spreadsheet format is only one way to exchange this data. COBie is also a subset of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), an international open standard covered by ISO 16739:2013.

COBie for all

For many designers the idea of using COBie may seem unnecessary and not relevant to their own business. After all, not all projects will have a Facilities Manager capable of using the data at the end of a project. Yet there are a number of reasons why adopting COBie can be advantageous for all projects, no matter how small. Here’s a few:

  1. Adopting a data standard will allow you to be consistent with other companies. You may be able to collaborate with others on larger projects or support larger companies to deliver the requirements of COBie.
  2. By adapting your current processes to an industry standard approach you will future proof your business and mean that you are not limited to which clients you can work with both now and in the future.
  3. By developing an expertise around a standardised data structure you can offer this as another reason to select you over a competitor.
  4. Adopting a data standard that is in common use will allow you to use other tools and processes that will also have been built around these standards. i.e. model validation.
  5. The data will already be largely present in existing processes so a few tweaks to your existing processes should allow you to deliver COBie with ease.

COBie is a standardised data structure. A core component of the process of producing COBie is to validate the data. This validation process checks information such as duplicate door numbers or ensuring that each type in your model is unique. These requirements are the same as traditional processes and whilst some of this can be done manually for small projects, tools are available to do this quickly and freely!


cobie archicad free guideGRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD has always been a tool that supports open standards. GRAPHISOFT have published a free guide that sets out where data is required in ARCHICAD to produce a correct output to COBie via IFC. These are available here

The guides from GRAPHISOFT, for the various versions of ARCHICAD, are a great start but understanding this in context is as equally important. So in late 2015 Bill East, the creator of COBie and Rob Jackson (Bond Bryan Digital) set about creating a project that could demonstrate the outputs of COBie from ARCHICAD.

This collaboration resulted in the creation of the East Dormitory project, which has now been shortlisted for Best BIM Project at the Construction Computing Awards 2016. The authors developed simulated contract drawings, models, and export files.  Files can be downloaded, free-of-charge, and compare their work with the examples provided. The files are available here

From the production of the model, Bill and Rob continued their collaboration by authoring “Delivering Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) in GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD” which was published in August 2016.

Rob states “The most important thing about the book is it is a book written by a user for users, in conjunction with the original author of the standard. The book includes tips and tricks and items to watch out for, which are invaluable to anyone wanting to adopt COBie in ARCHICAD. The book has also been technically reviewed by GRAPHISOFT to ensure it is consistent with best practice”.

The book explains how to deliver and check quality data during design. Readers will learn how to create ARCHICAD templates to streamline COBie production and coordinate the work of multiple designers. An improved understanding will allow ARCHICAD users to:

  • Provide COBie as an extension of existing design practice
  • Develop templates to streamline high-quality exports
  • Respond to alternative client requirements
  • Demonstrate the quality of your COBie files
  • Communicate COBie requirements with consultants


As explained earlier, COBie is an important data structure in the UK as the industry moves from an analogue to a digital approach. COBie may not be currently high on your list of things to do but the next time you come to update your template then you may want to look at tweaking your current processes to adopt a future proof approach. The book by Bill and Rob may help you on that journey.

“Delivering Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) in GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD” can be purchased here, with all books printed to order.

On Wednesday 23 November 2016 , Rob provided a webinar detailing COBie requirements and content, production in ARCHICAD and the importance of project templates.

Bill and Rob continue to collaborate and are looking further at developing the East Dormitory project, with Bill proposing to add further books in the series.