October 2012

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Tactical Building Communications and Slim BIM
This month, we get our first chance to look at COBie Lite, a profile of COBie built for today’s applications using today’s tools.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
TC9 Inc

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Some months ago, I wrote about the rise of “Slim BIM”, i.e., of light informational exchanges based upon formal Building Information Models (BIM). Slim BIM is used in transactional environments, that is in time limited information exchanges that do not rely on prior or anticipated processes. This is in contrast to traditional BIM which is process oriented. This month, we get our first chance to look at COBie Lite, a profile of COBie built for today’s applications using today’s tools.

The traditional basis for BIM-based exchanges was to treat them as part of the process for perfecting a well understood construction process. This process had a beginning in building programming, and end in building occupation, and known steps along the way. As buildings became more complex, as regulations on the building process and results required more transparency, as time and labor became more expensive, it became necessary to quantify, document, and assign responsibility for each aspect of the process.

One can understand traditional BIM, in part, as the tool for building quality processes, whether six sigma or TQM other named approach to the multi-party, multi-contractor construction process. In IT terms, BIM uses a waterfall process to define systems. Waterfall processes are a means to manage complexity through full specification. BIM specifies hand-overs and check-offs, and so intensifies performance competition between the hand-over points.

The operation of buildings is rarely fully specified, or not for long. Markets change operating hours during the sale. The commercial storefront is rented to a restaurant. Laboratory space is re-purposed to office research space. Closets, alas, still become server rooms.

COBie Lite is a proposed specification that offers a means to exchange information about building structures and systems without making assumptions about the process that requires the exchange. A “complete package” of COBie Lite can be used as is traditional COBie, i.e., the means to provide a hand-over of building information to the owner at the end of construction; I think it may replace COBIE entirely. A complete information exchange is also useful in other scenarios where complete information needs to be exchanged: bidding performance contracts, re-sale of a building, etc.

Standard profiles of COBie Lite will be used in tactical exchanges of information. NREL envisions each BAS to be able to describe itself and the space it supports. The OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee (TC) envisions a standard for first responders to access building information. This information may range from simple floor plans to ventilation strategies. Stripped of the heavy process orientation of traditional BIM, exchanges such as these look like simple restriction profiles of COBie Lite.

The Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) embraced a number of leading edge best practices in this draft specification. COBie Lite complies with the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). They have created machine-readable templates for transaction content and semantic dispersion using the OASIS CAM specification. BIM now has a framework for high-integrity transactional interactions.

This specification is now out for initial comments. Check it out and comment now, because this specification is on a fast track. It can speed your next integration project. You will be asking for or bidding on a project that requires it soon.



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