BIM | Industry Blog | Viewpoint Construction Software


Half Full Or Half Empty?

by Ben Wallbank on April 21, 2016

in BIM, UK

A Response to the whitepaper BIM: What Clients Really Think.

When you watch re-runs of Dad’s Army do you believe Private Frazer when he informs the platoon that “we’re doomed” or do you laugh?

From my perspective, the UK Construction Industry is doing very well in moving towards BIM Level 2. Just look how far, and how fast, we have come since 2011. We now have an industry that understands that BIM is not (just) 3D modelling, not just about design and construction, but structured data – and that that data can bring huge efficiencies to the whole life costs of an asset. We have a reasonable portion of the industry now starting to deliver data and models. (Viewpoints For Projects CDE data usage figures are going through the roof!)


We have (in just five years!) a complete set of standards and guidance and I’m seeing more and more adoption of the standards as I visit Viewpoint’s users. We also have a growing number of certified training courses and academic education requirements are being addressed through the BIM Academic Forum. We have (at least in Government) increasingly knowledgeable Client bodies (for example the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Services recently produced a great OIR, AIR, PLQ, EIR, IDP and BEP pro-forma suite of documents in line with the BIM Level 2 procurement process). We also know that Government have allocated £15 million for the development of BIM Level 3.

Yet, last week I sat on a round table discussion at the BRE’s BIM Prospects conference in London. The doom and gloom from the table and from the floor was palpable. In an industry employing a workforce of 2.1 million people, the change required to achieve BIM Level 2 is a challenge. We still have huge numbers of the supply chain to train up, there is not enough certified training, COBie skills are low, people are struggling with standards and some standards are not fully aligned. Perhaps most importantly, people were saying that clients don’t know how to commission BIM and are a block to BIM adoption.

In response to the industry concerns about Clients, Viewpoint recently funded a CIOB and BIM+ white paper “BIM: What Clients Really think”. You can download this here or email

It’s quite a dense read, but full of fascinating facts, figures and opinion much negative and much positive. I read it and was pleasantly surprised, however, I fear that that some will look at the figures and that well established British character trait will again rear its head with cries of “we’re doomed!”

So why am I filled with optimism?

The white paper is a survey of all client types, not just Government. BIM is only mandated for the eight major Government commissioning departments, not for the private sector. The strategy was always this would “Pull” the market and that a private sector “Push” would follow.

Although those delivering government procured projects are more obviously and immediately affected by the mandate, the survey results indicate to me that the astute players within private client groups have realised that as the wider industry adopts these new technologies, they too will benefit from reduced cost and risk. Private sector clients who retain responsibility for their assets (such as Tfl see page 5 of the paper) are actively redefining their deliverables to include asset information. This information can only be produced efficiently by generating most of the data from a Building Information Model.

Of course, not all construction clients have long-term interests in their assets; developer clients commission many projects. Ultimately, all the developer clients need worry about is selling or letting a new development. Why should a developer client bother asking for BIM deliverables? My expectation was therefore that the survey results would reflect low levels of adoption and understanding currently. Whist there was a bit of this, it was less marked than I expected.

Finding that more than 50% of the clients have already been involved in projects with BIM Level 2 deliverables is a huge surprise (remember Level 2 includes the production of digital structured asset data). (Page 7).

More than half of the clients believe that from 2016 (page 9) they will see better margins and productivity.

There is an understanding from the clients that they, like the rest of us, need education and training with 74% saying that BIM experienced clients are needed to make the benefits materialise. 58% believe that BIM’s effectiveness at the design stage is already proven. Even more surprisingly, a majority of clients think that the benefits of BIM at the operational phase are already materialising. 65% of clients believe that BIM will be a catalyst for more and better collaboration. 53% think better margins and productivity will be achieved through BIM (page 11).

Given the huge amount of work that Viewpoint is putting into COBie, the fact that the mandate has only just come into force and that many respondents will be developers with little interest in whole life asset date, the biggest surprise is COBie (page 13) with 20% of clients already having it embedded in the capital delivery phase. This is good news indeed. Some of the negative comments actually reveal an understanding that a client needs to define what parts of their asset are maintainable and require COBie data. Viewpoint For Projects COBie planner is able to assist clients to achieve a more lean definition of the data they require.

Even page 17, which looks for hard evidence of BIM’s benefits has some positive responses even though as David Walters of Argent observes “It’s very difficult to measure….and tricky to report on”.

Given where we are in BIM implementation I think those are remarkable results.

The industry depends upon its clients. Though the whitepaper illustrates that (as with the rest of BIM Level 2 adoption) we still have a long way to go, when I raise my glass to our clients, I can emphatically say it’s half full not half empty.

For more information about how Viewpoint can help you achieve Level 2 BIM visit


Contributed by Monike Oliveira, Viewpoint Lead Development Specialist, Australia

Sydney Build Expo 2016

This year’s Sydney Build, held the 10 -11 of March, was held in a beautiful industrial area just a 5-minute walk from Redfern Station in central Sydney –The Australian Technology Park (ATP). ATP is a unique place that reminds me of the Viewpoint office headquarters – a modern, renovated building in a booming industrial area located in Portland, Oregon – USA.

The weather during the conference was incredibly hot and humid. Nevertheless, that did not hinder the exhibitors nor the attendees’ commitment to the event. Sydney Build offered information on the latest construction projects, trends, developments and investment opportunities to be found in New South Wales and Sydney – the building capital of Australia.

Sydney build image 4

Key Happenings at the Event
During the “Meet the Contractors Workshop”, several industry leaders discussed the latest developments, challenges and opportunities in Sydney and for the Australian construction industry as a whole. Attendees included: Warwick Johnson, Director of NSW/QLD, Brookfield Multiplex Australasia; David Alessi, NSW Chapter President, Australian Institute Buildings & Business Development Manager; Greenpoint Construction Group; and Hylton Bloch, Projects Director at Lahey Constructions (a Viewpoint Construction Software customer).

Participants shared their insights, experiences and ideas of how technology is important and how BIM & collaboration tools and solutions are helping companies deliver higher quality construction projects in an efficient manner. The workshop covered the current construction market, as well as the future of the market and their commentary and insights made it easier to understand how technology plays a significant role in the construction industry. Lahey Projects Director, Hylton Bloch, offered: “I love the technology we have available at the moment.”

Additional topics discussed included BIM, going paperless, collaboration and GPS location defect management as well as 3D models, 3D printing, 3D scanning, drones, 3D Virtual Reality Construction Site, and prefabrication.

John Adams, Viewpoint Product Manager, Architect, and all round BIM & collaborative software solutions expert, participated in the BIM Open panel discussion. The panel discussed how important BIM & collaboration solutions are for this growing, global industry. John, who lives and works in the UK, shared his experiences on how the construction market in the UK is reacting and adapting to the BIM Level 2 mandate by the UK government.

Sydney Build 2016 provided a well-organized event that brought together many skilled, experienced and knowledgeable people under the same roof to understand how we all can work together for the betterment of the construction industry in Australia.





In case like me at first you missed it, hidden away in the Digital Section[1] of Chancellor George Osborne’s 2016 UK Budget was the following announcement:

George Osborne’s Chancellors 2016 UK Budget announcement

The Digital Built Britain – Level 3 Building Information Modelling Strategic Plan[2] set out the road map for the development of IFC to be the basis for the sharable structured data, this funding will ensure that the necessary work gets done.

This is fantastic news for the UK construction industry. The continued Government backing for the developments necessary to enable the digitisation of the industry ensure that we have the chance to build upon BIM Level 2, hit the targets set in the Construction 2025 Paper[3] and keep one step ahead of the competition.

BIM Technologies Alliance

The BIM Technologies Alliance is a sub-committee of the UK Government’s BIM Strategy Group. Here the Government advise and give advice to the software vendors and the vendors collaborate to ensure that interoperability is enhanced. It is my privilege to have served on the BTA for the last few years. Government have made clear that at BIM Level 2 COBie and, as we head towards Level 3, IFC will be core to developments moving forward. On the back of this guidance Viewpoint have invested heavily in OpenBIM developments based around these core non-proprietary data formats. You can imagine how happy we are to have confirmation of the Governments continued investment in the development of structured Open date formats.

Viewpoint’s customers are just beginning to see the benefits of the investment in our new non-sequel COBie database. The industry faces the challenge of how we integrate data from multiple sources uploaded to the CDE[4] over the internet.   Viewpoint For Projects provides the ability to federate COBie data from multiple sources with full a full audit trail of who has done what and when for each field in COBie. This is just the start.

[1] Section 7.49.

[2] February 2015:

[3] July 2013

[4] Common Data Environment (Viewpoint For Projects of course!)


What is COBie?

by Ben Wallbank on March 10, 2016

in BIM, COBie, UK

Last week we looked at why we need COBie. This week I’m going to look at what COBie actually is. COBie is a vehicle for sharing what is predominantly non-graphical data about a facility. It was developed in the US by the US Department of State, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Veterans Association and NASA – so don’t let anybody tell you BIM isn’t rocket science, because it is!

There was some UK involvement from both Nick Nisbet of AC3 and also Vinci UK were involved in the development too. The UK Government, when they came to look at what data formats to adopt for the whole life of their assets, looked around the world and saw that COBie had been developed and licensed its use.

COBie is a standard subset of IFC – the Industry Foundation Classes – it’s just that bit of data from IFC which relate to the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and Facilities Management (FM) of assets and this is delivered to client in the form of a spreadsheet.

Now, I fully expect that you’re saying: ‘What? A spreadsheet? Surely we’re heading towards a digital world where spreadsheets are a thing of the past?’ However, there were good reasons for this.

Firstly, using a spreadsheet allowed the participation of the smaller members of the supply chain – for example – if a small sub-contractor supplying maybe 5 radiator types to a project they would just need to complete the very few lines that relate to their manufactured items and would be able to submit them to the design and construction team for incorporation into the COBie spreadsheet for the job as a whole.

By adopting COBie in the form of a spreadsheet it also meant there was no additional software investment by Government because almost every civil servant has spreadsheet software already on their desktop. If I’m honest, I think the spreadsheet itself can be seen as a short term step.

What you can see below is a COBie spreadsheet – or at least a bit of a COBie spreadsheet, as a full COBie spreadsheet will consist of 19 individual tabs:


The spreadsheet is coloured up and the colours mean:

  • Yellow: Required checkable data
  • Salmon/Pink: Data that is related to other sheets
  • Purple: Data that comes from different softwares
  • Green: A whole series of fields that may or may not be required by the client

It’s important to remember that COBie isn’t a single thing – it’s something which is defined by the client at the start of the job in the EIR (Employers Information Requirements).

To help you understand how COBie works here is a simple diagram detailing the main tabs within your COBie spreadsheets – you can see that everything centres around ‘Components’.

To help you understand how COBie works here is a simple diagram detailing the main tabs within your COBie spreadsheets – you can see that everything centres around ‘Components’.

Components are the individual examples of items that may have been placed within your BIM originating software. In the graphic below we can show how COBie could relate to a bar within a hotel.

Components are the individual examples of items that may have been placed within your BIM originating software. In this graphic we can show how COBie could relate to a bar within a hotel.

In this instance, we have a ‘Beer Pump’. A beer pump will sit within a space – or a room – or in our example, it sits within a ‘Bar Area’. And of course, a bar may be part of a collection of rooms – in this case part of the ‘Entertainment Area’ within a hotel – a collection of rooms is what constitutes a ‘Zone’.

‘Zones’ may also stretch across several floors, which is why we also have a designation of which ‘Floor’ a particular room is on – and all of those items sit within a ‘Facility’, which is the asset we’re talking about – in this case a hotel.

So what we’ve done now is locate a particular item within a room, within a group of rooms of related function and within a floor or across a number of floors. So you can see that although our beer pump is a single component it has relationships with several of the other tabs within the COBie spreadsheet.

But that’s not all, a beer pump is also part of a wider system – the system in this case is the beer delivery system, consisting of kegs, pipes and pumps etc. Of course, the component maybe one of a number of similar components – or ‘Types’ – in this case we have six individual beer pumps attached to our bar.

We can also relate ‘Jobs’ and ‘Resource’ to our beer pump – which is where maintenance comes into our diagram. In this case a job maybe cleaning the pipes and that job may take two bar staff – so that’s our resource set against the job. Of course there may be a number of different jobs you want to relate to your beer pumps.

And finally, you may want to know that you have spares – so here you can see that we have three spare pumps in our cellar in case something goes wrong. This is basically how COBie works – you’re just relating a whole bunch of different functions to a single component.

There are other tabs within COBie, for example ‘Documents’ which will also be filled in – but it all works like this, and it’s pretty simple. It’s a great way to note what your assets are – and with them being in a readable format it’s easy to interrogate this information.

Of course as this single component is replicated on a large job – perhaps on a hospital – you may have hundreds of thousands of components for which you need to do this job. The job isn’t hard – but it needs to be done – and if we can automate this process it will make our lives a lot easier. Certainly a lot of what COBie is can be generated from your individual Building Information Models.

It’s also important to realise that COBie is not just about buildings – it’s equally about infrastructure.

You can see in a similar way it centres on ‘Components’

You can see in a similar way it centres on ‘Components’.

In this case our component may be a light fitting on the Central Reservation (being a linear location), of a length of road, within a region of a road, within a facility (such as the M1 or a full road system). This light fitting would also be part of a full ’lighting system’ and would have jobs relating to it – such as changing the lightbulbs, which would have a resource set against it and back at the depot you would keep your spares – so you can see that COBie works in a very similar way for infrastructure.


It’s worth viewing some COBie videos that have been produced in the US to get a further understanding of COBie. You can see these videos here:

In further blogs we’ll look at COBie within the UK.


Why We Need COBie

by Ben Wallbank on March 3, 2016

in BIM, COBie, UK

The requirements for BIM Level 2 deliverables are actually pretty simple – the only one that at least at first will be a little bit of a challenge is COBie. So what is COBie and why do we need it?

COBie is actually the key differentiator for the UK Governments strategy. They want good data so they can drill into the 80% of cost that lies beyond construction. It’s the first Governmental strategy to make COBie a contractual requirement.

Below you can see a Turner and Townsend study on the AEC Value System:

A Turner and Townsend study on the AEC Value System

It shows that around 3% of the cost of an asset is in its design and only 17% in its construction – so only around 20% of the whole life cost of an asset lies in the design and construction, leaving around 80% (not including demolition) lying beyond the involvement of the design and construction team.

The UK Government also hope that by making our industry ‘expert’ at how you provide good sharable structured data to help with the running of an asset, that these will be skills that we will able to export to other parts of the world.

There’s been an acknowledgement that asset information is currently really poor. This information typically gets put together in the last few weeks of a construction contract – perhaps an external consultant is appointed who manically runs around to all the different parties involved getting information, and all that information, even if it’s meant to be collated ‘as built’, has tended to be poor, and is not put together by the person who has generated it – so inevitably there are errors. The gathered information usually takes the form of multiple A4 ring binders – and of course, bits of paper go missing and over time data gets lost.

If we can provide structured digital data for handover, this will allow building operators to much more effectively manage and run their built assets. COBie sets out some goals – the main one being that data is captured as it is created by the individual who is dealing with it. For example, if an architect says a room is an office, then unless the function of that room changes, nobody else will touch that data – it will be carried forward throughout design and construction and on to the life of the building.

The data will of course be transferred upon completion to the operators and maintainers systems – so the data needs to be produced in a format which is compatible with commercial software. COBie aims to standardise the format and specification.

Other industries which have already digitised have learned the importance of sharable structured data. If you take the World Wide Web, for example, it really took off with the adoption of HTML. So our industry’s biggest challenge is learning to provide non-propriety, shareable, structured digital data – and COBie can be seen as the trainer wheels for doing this – it’s just that piece of data that relates to OM and FM – so there will be a much larger data story. In fact, COBie is a subset of the industry foundation classes or IFC – so going forward, with a little further development, we will be developing IFCs, but for now we have a great format to drill into that 80% of cost, in COBie.

At Viewpoint For Projects, we have invested heavily in a non SQL database and that is to be able to utilise structured data and in particular, COBie. The importance of COBie really lies within comparisons – many people say why don’t we go from authoring software A to FM software Z – they tend to be relational databases where we can map from the bespoke fields within the authoring software to the bespoke fields within the FM software – and that will get you perfectly decent asset data on a single asset. But, the reality is that there are many tools out there – for example, one of our key clients currently uses three standard FM softwares, and from job to job they have different consultants using different softwares – so where you may get decent data for a single asset, you lose the ability to compare multiple assets.

If the industry adopts COBie and later IFCs, you’ll be able to make really interesting comparisons between jobs. So whether you’ve got a building in Lands End or a building in John O’Groats or indeed multiple assets between the two, you’ll be able to do searches, for example on a particular boiler type to see how it’s performing across your assets, which you would never be able to do if you just mapped proprietary software to proprietary software.

And these are the reasons why it’s important that the industry gets to grips with a standard for structured data – in this case it’s COBie. And don’t forget, Big Data is coming – and in order to be able to make these comparisons across data sectors, we need to have our data structured.

So in summary, we can see that structured sharable data is crucial to our industry becoming an industry fit for the 21st Century and I believe that if we don’t manage to do this, other industries that have already digitised will actually take and use our work as their own.

For more information about how Viewpoint can help your business achieve Level 2 BIM, visit our website today: