COBie is not dead with the introduction of 19650

With the introduction of ISO 19650, it has never been more important to consider how data, using open sources can facilitate these goals 19650 promotes, says John Ford.

No matter what your thoughts on COBie and where you are in the journey in collecting and structuring data in compliance to the open COBie standard, it is still our best bet in delivering standardised data in aid of asset management cost reductions.– John Ford

As construction completes and the 20% costs that apply to the whole assets value closes out (capital expenditure (capex)), the 80% costs (operational expenditure (opex)) then start to apply.

For the public sector, these costs are staggering and unsustainable in current business models, hence why in 2011 the UK government implemented BIM Level 2, a means of delivering better value from the building & management of built assets (total expenditure) using industry standards dedicated to better information management through the growing trend of digitisation and information modelling. 

The big barrier holding back opex value was the fact that for asset management to take place seamlessly, good, complete and timely data was required from the start which often never happened. Many asset managers just wanted a register that listed all the main assets, where they were, what they were and key data linked to them that helped them plan preventative maintenance for kit sometimes worth tens, if not hundreds of thousands. 

But there were some issues: 

  • Many asset managers were not appointed early in the design/construction stage so couldn’t influence the contracts requirements that asked what contractors should deliver;
  • Many asset managers could not influence the format or type of data required. So, although O&M/EIRs said “Give us asset registers”, specifics were always missing;
  • Asset managers may not have or may change their asset management technology solution which may require different formats or data to work to optimum potential. 

So a solution by the UK government and its ring of experts was to propose COBie, which satisfied all of the issues above as COBie, within its specification, provides a standard default set of requirements for assets and their data attributes that could be placed into contract requirements with little or no knowledge being expected of the client.

Then, as clients gain more experience with COBie, the standard allowed them to get more specific answers to the customisable three questions: 

  1. Classification,
  2. Additionally excluded assets and,
  3. O&M properties.

There was a problem, however – the UK’s approach to mandating COBie was sudden, lacked clarity and even tried to change some aspects of a well written standard to support objectives without little or no case study or knowhow to back it up, which frustrated the industry. 

With the introduction of ISO 19650 and withdrawal of PAS 1192-2, many may feel that COBie has taken a backseat or has been withdrawn from the government’s or private sector objectives. This is not the case, albeit the topic has gone silent recently with only a small reference to it being in the national annex of ISO19650-2.

At the time of writing of this article, there is still no better “open standard” solution that beats what COBie has to offer and though it is still problematic for many when trying to adapt their data to the COBie standard, there is still a lot of research in this area taking place within design, construction and maintenance organisations to improve the flow. 

Several books released by the COBie inventor working with some of the most talented individuals in their UK & US organisations who have spent a lot of time researching the subject demonstrated that it can be done, how it was done and how it adds value if done correctly once you fill the knowledge gaps.

I myself, who once experimented with an early version of COBie in late 2008 on the first UK project to use it, have also recently contributed to one of Bill East`s upcoming books focusing on how COBie during construction can help lean out the handover process. Demystification of COBie and its processes can really help to add value if you’re willing to understand information management right down to its core roots where back office admin takes place by many unsung heroes just trying their best to deliver data but perhaps not necessarily getting the investment they need to use standardised processes.  

So to summarise, no matter what your thoughts on COBie and where you are in the journey in collecting and structuring data in compliance to the open COBie standard, it is still our best bet in delivering standardised data in aid of asset management cost reductions.

It just requires your time in understand the chaotic processes that take place currently and how COBie can be used to resolve the vast majority of them if businesses adopt standard working practices around it.

Story for BIM+? Get in touch via email: [email protected]


  1. NIce. Historically our industry has been poor at structuring and classifying data with any degree of cross industry consistency.COBie to me represents a kind of schoolmaster trying to help us get our house in order.
    The key to the kingdom of open data, and a data driven industry is to be using data consistently, structured, controlled. To me COBie UK offers a a kind of lowest common denominator that all can use. Until we get these basic lessons we’re not going to get much further!

  2. Good take on this John. Thanks! Capturing an as-built equipment register and associated documentation is about as basic as it gets. We already capture this information on every building. The trouble is that these bland “standard” process documents don’t actually tell anybody anything practical. They only make people wonder why they took the time to write those documents in the first place. Let’s get practical. Let’s think about what we do, and not what some standards-guru thinks we should be doing. Look forward to sharing our “Lean Handover: COBie for Contractors” book in mid-June to answer the “how?” question!

  3. This sounds and I restate Sound interesting and useful, the question is what can it actually deliver in terms of better asset management at a reduced overall cost

  4. Nice Article John,
    Cobie only goes so far. What our industry desperately needs is for our plethora of industry institutions and CDBB to define a data dictionary for each asset class that has been defined in Uniclass 2015. This way we can have a common set of data attributes for our designers and contractors to populate during Design and Build Phases.

Comments are closed.

Latest articles in Analysis