4th Gen BIM: BIM for Owners

July 28, 2017

While we currently operate largely within the 3rd generation of BIM, we increasingly see owner requirements that suggest the next generation is rapidly approaching. In this upcoming 4th generation of BIM – BI(m) – the information contained in the model becomes more important than the 3D model element itself. 

One of the more concrete examples of BI(m) that we currently encounter is the COBie (Construction to Operation Building Information Exchange) requirement, where design and construction-phase information is transferred to an owner for the operation of the building. COBie is the digital substitute for the old manual process of assembling paper copies of operations and maintenance manuals into boxes and binders which are then turned over to the owner.

In COBie, the data from each of the major components in the model (doors windows, air terminals, lighting, chillers, etc.) is extracted and written to a spreadsheet format from the BIM model. The spreadsheet lists which floor and room components were placed in, as well as critical characteristics and maintenance information. The design team first creates the spreadsheet by exporting model elements from the BIM file into a structured set of tables. During construction and at close-out, the contractor typically populates any empty cells with the relevant information related to submittals, product information and actual as-built components.

The advantage of COBie is that instead of transferring a mountain of paper, the owner receives a spreadsheet file that contains information on equipment within the BIM model – color, model, manufacturer, links to PDFs on the component, so that they can easily locate information for future maintenance and operation of building equipment. EYP creates COBie worksets directly from the Revit model which greatly streamlines the process of creating the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet can then be read as a data source by many different ‘readers' such as computerized maintenance tracking systems or even data analysis viewers.

What is most significant about COBie is that the owner is able to benefit from the information in the model without actually having to deal with the model itself. Typically, large BIM files can exceed 300 MB in size, and with multiple models, it is not unusual for the entire dataset to total 1GB or more. This is unwieldy from an owner’s point of view, when all they really need is data. It is also worth highlighting that though BIM may be the initial authoring tool for Building Information, it is likely that the information contained in the model would find its final form of data elsewhere.

The COBie requirement then is a perfect example of BIM information that does not require the 3D models to preserve and build on the value of design-related data. In the future, we will likely see other information formats extracted from BIM to benefit the owner’s operations.