COBie Guide  

by U.S. ARMY Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research Developmental Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)


Contracted Information Exchanges

As with any contract deliverable, information deliverables require specifications that define the quality upon which that deliverable must be tested. "Information exchange" standards produced by buildingSMART alliance are specifically designed to be contractible standards. The first of these standards, the Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie), identifies the minimum set of information needed to exchange managed asset information during the life of a project.

Standards and Practices

The basic COBie standard requires that the type and location of all scheduled or tagged equipment be present. Included are the requirements for make, model and serial numbers, tag, installation date, warranty and scheduled maintenance requirements. This minimum requirement reflects current practice in that such information is currently required in virtually all existing construction contracts. This minimum specification does not reflect project type, facility owner, or product specific properties.

First Things First

Providing owners with a minimum national standard through which asset information may be captured, updated, and exchanged is, the first step to ensure that such information is actually delivered by a given project team. Experience since 2008, when COBie was first publicly tested, has show that simply adding COBie to a design or construction contract will not result in the production of anything that is useful for the facility manager.

The most common complaint heard from those attempting to meet COBie specifications is that owners are not clear about the expected content of COBie deliverable.

Human experience tells us that we walk before we run. The process of implementing COBie will be no different, project teams have to be able to reliably create minimally correct COBie file before there should be a consideration of future "blue sky" approaches. For those owners who have not previously obtained a COBie file the basic COBie standard should be used without customization. As I always say, "If you can't get Pump-5 showing up in Room 3, it doesn't matter how good the rest of the information is because you're never going to find it anyway!"

Blue Sky Approaches

Another approach taken by some has been to imagine possible futures where there are standards for a complete range of all possible building information exchanges. While such visionaries should be applauded, the practicability of contracts and deliverables should bring a dose of reality. As I always say, "If we can't get a common North arrow on a set of drawings, what makes you think that we can standardize the names of all products in every one of our 243,000 buildings?"

The Middle Way

The COBie Guide is a framework for project owners and teams to develop a practical implementation strategy toward COBie. Once the document has been customized for a given owner, that owner's version of the Guide should be directly referenced in design and construction specifications.

Four Deliverables

There are four COBie deliverables identified in the COBie Guide. Two are required during design and two during construction. Design deliverables at the 35% and Construction Documents stage of design are required. Construction Deliverables at the Beneficial Occupancy and Fiscal Completion stage are required.

Quality Criteria

COBie design deliverables must reflect data about scheduled assets identified in the associated design deliverables. Since scheduled assets appear on drawings in design schedules, the COBie guide identifies the minimum requirement for schedule table headers. COBie construction deliverables must reflect updates to the designed assets and include construction and commissioning information consistent with that already produced in paper-based formats.


Feedback received from many teams has been that owners cannot articulate COBie requirements so the information that is provided to these owners is incomplete. COBie is designed for customization and is fully extensible through the use of owner-specific classifications, commonly required property sets, and specific requirements for space and product properties. The COBie Guide Appendix A tells the owner what should be customized in COBie and allows them to document their requirements.

As noted previously, the COBie Guide need not be customized since the basic requirements of COBie deliverables, "the walking", should be well in hand before a fully integrated COBie data set, "the running," is attempted.

The COBie Guide

The COBie Guide is the result of man-years of effort in the development and testing the use of COBie on real projects. To incorporate those lessons learned, the "COBie Guide, Public Release 1" was released for comment on 02-July-12 and underwent a three (3) month international review. Based on those comments a ballotable draft of the COBie Guide has been produced. It is expected that the "COBie Guide, Public Release 2" will be submitted as a "code commentary" ballot to NBIMS version 3.

You may download the March 2013, Public Release 5, of the COBie Guide.