The COBie Calculator  

by U.S. ARMY Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research Developmental Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)



The Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) standard defines a minimum set of information needed to capture electronic handover information. COBie, however, does not define the processes used to create such information. Some choose to manually capture COBie data by transcribing information from paper documents. Other project teams choose to capture asset information as data, as the project progresses, using COBie-centered project extranets.

Clearly, the costs and benefits of creating COBie data by manual transcription or through automated life-cycle processes differ significantly. Unfortunately, the costs of COBie process were not defined. As a result there was has been no method to measure the benefits of automating COBie exchanges — until now.


The business process models used to define the COBie NBIMS-US standard were updated to identify activities that add value to the project, such as the specification, selection, or installation of facility assets, and non-value added activities. Value-Added analysis is not new; however, it was only recently applied to the construction industry (1). A significant number of non-value added activities were identified in this process. Activities that add cost to the project, without helping to add value include activities required to: copy, handle, transmit, route, and check asset information.

Today, the cost of non-value added activities are buried in our budgets where they cannot be seen. Such costs have many names, depending on your specific point of view, a report by the Transportation Research Board identifies such costs as "soft costs"(2). A flexible spreadsheet was developed to shine a light on these non-value added activities. The calculator was demonstrated on the three standard BIM Council (formerly buildingSMART alliance) models (Duplex, Office, and Clinic) and also tested against a real project portfolio of a major municipal infrastructure owner.


The evaluation of each of the Life-Cycle information exchanges needed to efficiently flow facility asset information from planning through handover was conducted and documented in the Calculator COBie Report.

Three verification studies were conducted to predict the cost and benefits of using a COBie-based process compared with traditional paper-based delivery.

The calculator was also validated against data taken from a major municipal infrastructure owner. In addition to checking the accuracy of the findings of the calculator, this study also demonstrated the flexibility of the calculator to consider mixed paper- and electronic-distribution of documents.


The findings of this study, released in the 'Calculator COBie Report' demonstrate that, regardless of project size, a targeted investment in business process change and software tools has the potential to virtually eliminate non-productive work that is, today, buried in project overheads. Such costs may, according to the results of this study, constitute over 90% of the costs of equipment specification, selection and validation.


The COBie Calculator is configurable to allow organizations to model their own project processes and cost variables, as well as projected cost reductions, to identify savings that could be achieved with COBie, and show specifically how to achieve these savings. The calculator may be used by project stakeholders to develop a business case for COBie. Furthermore, with the current costs and expected benefits of COBie implementation explicitly stated, those implementing COBie may evaluate their assumptions and improve results since there will be a yardstick against which to measure.


(1) East, E., Love, D (2011) "Value-Added Analysis of the Construction Submittal Process," Automation in Construction, 20(8), pp 1070-1078.

(2) Touran, A., Scheneck, D. Bravo, V. (2010) "Estimating Soft Costs for Major Public Transportation Fixed Guideway Projects: Part 1: Guidebook, and Part 2: Final Report," Transit Cooperative Research Program, TCRP Report 138

(cited 04-Nov-13).


Creative Commons License
Construction-Operations Building information exchange by buildingSMART alliance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

References to this work should be in the form of: Fallon, Kristine (2013) "Assessment of Life Cycle Information Exchanges (LCie): Understanding the Value-Added Benefit of a COBie Process," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, CR-13-6.