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Perhaps the largest benefit of COBie is that it provides a standard structure to collect and exchange asset data. This saves project teams time, which can help to reduce costs. Second, when a common data structure is used, it is possible to collect asset data once and share it between data users. For example, when COBie-capable software is used for both maintenance and space management, it is possible to export relevant space data, such as building names and room numbers, from the space management system and import it into the maintenance management system. This can be especially valuable when facility teams need to replace an existing CAFM, CMMS, or IWMS.
Methods to collect data using COBie can vary widely, from the use of a spreadsheet, to Web forms set up using Google Sheets and commercial off-the-shelf software. When determining what method to use, consider the budget available, required quality of data and time available to manage the data collection process. With lower cost methods, it will be necessary to spend more time manually checking data for accuracy and making sure the requested data is collected. In contrast, although it may cost more upfront to collect data using purchased software, in the end the quality of the data collected can be higher because purchased software often has quality assurance algorithms with automated checking.
The use of the COBie standard by facility management teams has been increasing over the last several years. Among the facility teams that are successfully using COBie are the U.S. State Department, the University of Southern California, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Texas A&M Health Science Center.
The U.S. Department of State's strategic vision includes the use of COBie. It is part of their unified building management system, which is used to manage building, operations, real estate, maintenance, and project information. During a recent presentation, a member of the State Department team remarked that their system had "COBie inside," like Intel inside. At the University of Southern California, COBie is part of the university's BIM guideline. Although implementing new processes and standards is often a slow process across any industry, the number of facility teams interested using COBie continues to increase.
As facility management teams start determining how COBie can be used with their organizations, it is important to clearly define what is desired. When requiring the use of COBie within a project, it is necessary to specify what data and the quality of the data that should be collecting using COBie.
Angela Lewis, PE, PhD, is a project manager with Facility Engineering Associates. In March 2013, she led the COBie Challenge for Facility Managers at NFMT. She can be contacted at email@example.com.