For the past 12 months i’ve been presenting ‘The COBieNATOR’ which is a LIVE demonstration of COBie’s relationship to IFC. First showcased at BIM Show Live 2014 (see here for more details) I was subsequently asked to present it at a number of other events both in the UK and abroad. Having toured the world presenting the class, I thought it would be useful to share some of the information we presented in a more structured format.
We are of course ARCHICAD users so in this series of posts I will very much focus on the implementation of COBie within this specific authoring tool. (PS I’d love somebody to do the same from other authoring tools!) However i’d like to think that model authors using other tools can take some benefit to understanding the data structure and it’s relationship to IFC. Obviously the methodology and approach varies with each authoring tool but the outputs are the same.
There are different types of data required for different needs but one of the key data deliverables emerging in the UK is COBie. COBie stands for “Construction Operations Building information exchange” and is currently available as version 2.4, with version 3 in the planning stages. This format will be required for all centrally procured UK government projects from April 1st 2016 onwards as well as native models and PDF documents. Although April next year is the deadline there are already clients choosing to specify this standard for projects so the standard is already in use in the UK.
So for those of you unfamiliar with COBie put in simple terms it is a way of transferring data in a structured format into another system. At its most basic level this output can be displayed in a spreadsheet format as a series of sheets within an Excel workbook. But to be clear COBie isn’t specifically a spreadsheet or Microsoft Excel but a schema to set out specific requirements for transferring data to manage preventative maintenance after the construction phase. (For the record we have tested COBie data directly into a CAFM tool using IFC 2×3 Basic FM Handover Model View Definition (MVD). This isn’t necessarily yet a plausible workflow because others need to add data outside of the authoring tool but it does show the opportunities to share COBie in other ways without using a spreadsheet).
There are some more useful links about COBie on our COBie resources page if you want to know more.
GRAPHISOFT have produced documentation related to COBie 2 since ARCHICAD version 16 and it is available on their website. This sets out exactly where to put the data within an ARCHICAD model and varies slightly between versions as improvements have been made to the software. These particular blog posts focus on versions 18 and 19.
“BS 1192-4:2014 Collaborative production of information. Part 4: Fulfilling employers information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice” was published last year and provides more information around the COBie standard. The document is free and is available here.
The BIM Task Group states “BS 1192-4:2014 defines expectations for the exchange of information throughout the lifecycle of a Facility. The use of COBie ensures that information can be prepared and used without the need for knowledge of the sending and receiving applications or databases. It ensures that the information exchange can be reviewed and validated for compliance, continuity and completeness.”
BS 1192-4 also recommends a number of additional fields that can be added at different levels of the model to provide further information within the Attributes data of a COBie output. These additional requirements are covered in these posts.
Explaining COBie 2.4 and BS 1192-4:2014 in relation to ARCHICAD
My challenge is to explain COBie (and BS 1192-4:2014) in simple language that ARCHICAD users can understand. Even the acronym COBie immediately looks like some alien language. At the end of the day it is just information. Information is information, it just happens that this information is structured in an industry standard way that can be exchanged with others consistently. From my point of view COBie is nothing to be scared of but rather something that simply needs to be understood by all model authors.
In a series of posts we will discuss the information that needs to be inputted directly by the user. There is other data controlled by the export settings but I will avoid getting into this as this can largely be set up in a standard translator. Provided users then use the translator for the export they don’t need to worry about those pieces of data whilst modelling.
So the data that is required is split down into the following information – Instruction, Contact, Facility, Space, Zone, Type, Component, System, Assembly, Connection, Spare, Resource, Job, Impact, Document, Attribute, Coordinate, Issue and Picklists. Where expressed in Excel each of these is contained within a separate sheet. So in these posts we will look at what data is required to be inputted by the user for each.
All of the information in this post is shared in good faith. If any errors are detected please contact us immediately so that they can be rectified.
Image: COBie 2.4 Instruction sheet
The information that appears in the Instruction sheet is populated from information from the other parts of the workbook. For example, if you have 10 Spaces in your model then it will populate the Instruction sheet showing this summary.
This information for Instruction is therefore not completed within the model authoring tool so there is nothing for users to actually input within ARCHICAD.
Image: COBie 2.4 Contact sheet
I have previously covered this in a blog post about ARCHICAD’s Project Info dialogue box but for completeness I have repeated some of the information here. See ARCHICAD 18: Join the IFC and COBie Flow – Part 1 – Project Info.
The contact information includes all companies involved in the project. It is in simplistic terms a project directory for all parties involved in producing information.
Strictly speaking the contact information is not required from the model authoring tool but given most of the information is fairly straightforward, the extra work required to produce this data is minimal and much of this information appears on drawing layout sheets it makes sense to tackle this data within ARCHICAD.
The following information is required – Email, Company and Phone. The following is required if specified by the client – Department, OrganizationCode, Given Name, Family Name, Street, Postal Box, Town, State Region, Postal Code and Country.
All of this information can be setup in the Project Info dialogue box. If you only have one office then this is very very straightforward and you are really only left with completing Email, Given Name and Family Name on each project. If you are one man band then you can set it all up in a template and never have to fill anything in! For multiple offices you can create multiple templates or simply have an XML file that can be imported at the start of a project with the correct office details.
There are no additional requirements for Contact data identified by BS 1192-4:2014.
Image: COBie 2.4 Facility sheet
Again much of this was posted previously in ARCHICAD 18: Join the IFC and COBie Flow – Part 1 – Project Info.
The Facility information is made up of three different types of IFC data – Project (IfcProject), Site (IfcSite) and Building (IfcBuilding). In all an ARCHICAD user is only required to complete a maximum of 8 fields of data to satisfy the Facility data required by COBie:
Project – ProjectName and Phase (ProjectStatus in Project Info). The following is required if specified by the client – ProjectDescription.
Image: Project information for COBie 2.4 displayed in the IFC Manager within GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 19. All this information is automatically mapped from Project Info.
The value for Phase must match the COBie Picklist. In the UK this would be either: CIC 1 : Brief, CIC 2 : Concept, CIC 3 : Design Development, CIC 4 : Production Information, CIC 5 : Constructed Information, CIC 6 : Handover, CIC 6A : Post fit-out Handover or CIC 7 : Post Practical Completion.
Site – SiteName. The following is required if specified by the client – SiteDescription.
Image: Site information for both COBie 2.4 and BS 1192-4:2014 displayed in the IFC Manager within GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 19. All this information is automatically mapped from Project Info.
Building – Name (Building Name) and Classification (Category). The following is required if specified by the client – Description (BuildingDescription).
Image: Building information for both COBie 2.4 and BS 1192-4:2014 displayed in the IFC Manager within Graphisoft ARCHICAD 19. All this information is automatically mapped from Project Info with the exception of the classification (which populates Category in COBie) and is put directly within this dialogue.
All of this information can be completed in Project Info (in ARCHICAD 18 and above) with the exception of the Classification at Building level which is done in the IFC Manager. Again all of this can be setup at the beginning of a project so really is not that difficult.
Image: Predefined Rules to allow ARCHICAD users to choose a building’s classification (COBie Category). COBie-UK-2012 still technically uses Uniclass 1.4 for classification although we have clients requesting Uniclass 2 and i’m sure Uniclass 2015 will follow shortly. Whichever you use the process is the same.
BS 1192-4:2014 also identifies a number of other attributes required at the Facility level. Note though that whilst the data is added at the Facility level this data will appear in the Attribute sheet in a spreadsheet output.
The following are identified as additional parameters at Facility level for buildings (note: there are other recommended properties for infrastructure):
Project – None identified.
Site – RefElevation, RefLatitude, RefLongitude and LandTitleNumber. GrossArea is also recommended as additional quantity data. Gross Area is mapped from Site Gross Area in Project Info (under Site Details) and is a manually defined field rather than an automatically calculated quantity.
Building – RefNorthing, RefEasting, UPRN, TOID, IsLandmarked, BuildingID, IsPermanentID, NumberOfStoreys and OccupancyType. GrossVolume and NetVolume are also recommended as additional quantity data. The GrossVolume and NetVolume quantities are calculated only for building elements and Objects, and exported only if “IFC base quantities” option is active at Export Options / Derived model data to export.
BS 1192-4:2014 also identifies NetArea and TrueNorth as recommended values. TrueNorth is calculated from the Project North can be set at Project Preferences / Project Location or Set Project North and exported automatically with the model. NetArea quantities are also calculated only for building elements and Objects, and exported only if “IFC base quantities” option is active at Export Options / Derived model data to export.
RefNorthing, RefEasting, UPRN and TOID will all be available in an exported IFC 2×3 file to other software under the Property Set entitled COBie_BuildingCommon_UK. The individual setting up the company ARCHICAD template(s) needs to add this manually to the IFC Scheme for a user to populate in the IFC Manager. Placeholder values can also be placed in the IFC Scheme to ensure these fields appear in the filtered IFC Scheme making it easier for users to understand which fields to complete.
IsLandmarked, BuildingID, IsPermanentID, NumberOfStoreys and OccupancyType will all be available in an exported IFC 2×3 file to other software under the Property Set entitled PsetBuildingCommon.
RefLatitude (Latitude), RefLongitude (Longitude) and RefElevation (Altitude (Sea Level)) are all driven from ARCHICAD’s Project Location dialogue box. All other fields must be put in the respective fields of the IFC Manager.
Image: Project Location dialogue in GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 19 which drives RefLatitude, RefLongitude and RefElevation for BS1192-4 properties.
Image: COBie 2.4 Floor sheet
This again is fairly straightforward and something ARCHICAD users should be familiar with even with just 3D modelling. Three of the settings every user will understand which are Name, Elevation and Height (Height to Next). All of these are managed in the Story Setttings dialogue window. Elevation and Height are strictly only required if specified by the client but these are required within ARCHICAD for modelling purposes.
Image: Story Settings in GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 19.
In addition a floor Classification Reference (Category) is required which is added in the IFC Manager against each floor. Floors are either classified as Site, Floor or Roof. Again this data input is very straightforward and not time consuming. Floor Description may also be required if specified by the client and again is added in the IFC Manager.
Image: Predefined rule to allow GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD users to choose the correct Floor classification reference (COBie Category)
Image: Floor information displayed in the IFC Manager within GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 19.
The main thing with Floors is to agree these floor levels with other project team members and document them in a Post-contract BIM Execution Plan (BEP) as it is important levels are consistent between disciplines and across software solutions. This is good practice even when exchanging 3D models with no data requirement. This ‘matching’ of floor levels with other software is key for IFC exchange with ARCHICAD.
Again, like the Facility data I believe we should simply tackle all the data requirements, whether specified by the client or not. We are only talking about 5 pieces of data per floor.
Tip: All Floor data can be setup in an ARCHICAD template leaving the user to simply remove unwanted floors and adjust floor to floor heights accordingly. For UK projects you can also use the Floor Name to follow the naming requirements of BS 1192:2007. i.e. GF Ground Floor, 01 First Floor, 02 Second Floor etc etc.
There are no additional requirements for Floor data identified by BS 1192-4:2014.
Conclusion (Instruction, Contact, Facility and Floor)
There will be some out there saying but I don’t need to deliver COBie! Of course that is true in a lot of cases and for many of our projects as well. However, many won’t be producing COBie but will still be exporting IFC models. The data described in this post also populates your IFC models and so is good practice to follow. Even if you aren’t sharing models yet with other consultants, contractors, clients or manufacturers its a good habit to get into before you need to. There is nothing difficult in any of this if you understand where to put the information.
This approach to data is now forming our emerging ‘standard’ approach for all our new projects. Both COBie (and the additional parameters identified in BS 1192-4:2014) provide a clear standard to produce robust IFC models which in turn can be used for COBie outputs. By adopting a common approach it is clear for all users that this is the ‘standard’ way to work and means we can move away from this project is BIM and this one isn’t. We still have a few tweaks to make to our templates and as i’ve said before this approach is taking time to bed in but with practice all our users will be doing this as standard for years to come.
In the next post in the series we will look at Space and Zone information required for COBie 2.4 and BS 1192-4:2014.
Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Architects