As part of our series speaking to buildingSMART COBie Certified Professionals™, we spoke to Nohara VDC’s Henry Di Zhu about his experience using COBie - and why he thinks the system needs to become recognised globally.
A renowned Project Manager, Henry is an expert in all things BIM, with years of experience in design and analysis across the construction sectors in the USA, China, the Middle-East and South East Asia.
What was your first experience with COBie?
I heard of COBie three years ago. I was involved in several projects where COBie was briefed for post-construction - and so my first impression was that COBie was about putting information in a well-organised structure. But it’s so much more nuanced than that.
I was using BIM for design and automation at the time. Construction was, and continues to be in some areas, very traditional. I see it worldwide - construction gets caught up in its own tradition and despite the numerous tools and techniques on offer, a lot of professionals aren’t using high technology throughout the whole process, whether it’s construction, design, post-management, post-construction, facilities management or anything else.
When BIM first arrived on the scene, people tried to design from 2D to 3D using Revit or other Autodesk products - but often the information in Building Information Modelling gets left behind. BIM works best when the information is good, valuable and trustworthy. And COBie sets a standard for the collection and delivery of that information when it comes to handing the project over to the facilities management team. It’s 3D plus information, as BIM is meant to be, in a way that really streamlines business management.
Then I was introduced to Bill East and Bill told me more about COBie, how it can improve the interoperability from construction to operation. Bill then told me more about the COBie Certified Professional Exam, and I sat it in 2020.
What was your experience with the examination process itself?
I was initially invited to review the exam as a non-native English speaker and I found some of the wording of the questions quite difficult to follow. Speaking to Bill he was keen for COBie to be globally accessible and so wanted advice on the question wording. In particular, he wanted to make the exam more simple for non-native English speakers.
After we rewrote some of the questions, I decided I could take the exam, too. Bill recommended several books for me to study from and I did a lot of research - and passed!
It’s a lot of hard work, but with commitment, achieving COBie Certified Professional status is achievable.
How does COBie impact your day to day work?
In 2020, some of our projects were delayed due to the pandemic and as a result I wasn’t using COBie that much - but as things have started up again I have been influencing clients to adopt COBie. My day to day role is to help my clients as a consultant for construction and post-construction concepts and I recommend COBie to structure data, so that when we hand projects over, all of the data is in great condition and continues to be kept track of.
Who would benefit from taking the COBie Certified Professional Exam™?
Currently, COBie is more popular in the UK and the US. In the UK the concept of BIM is far more widely appreciated, with standards published and BIM mandates in place - the UK construction industry is ahead in many ways. And in the US, the buildingSMART community has published standards and guidelines around BIM.
Anyone who follows these guidelines, especially frontline engineers, needs to know about COBie and the entire information concept.
I would suggest that managers also look into COBie and taking the exam. When we implement COBie, it’s not just at one point in the process - it’s a systematic programme that needs to be initiated from day one. To do this, resource needs to be allocated - and resource allocation is dictated by those at manager level. There’s nothing we can do if we get two years into a job and then decide to implement COBie.
Anyone who is involved in the data of a project and anyone who is involved in facilities management needs to be well-versed in COBie. And if they can pass the exam, they can be certain that they are managing their projects in the right way.
Should international engineers and architects be taking the exam?
I think it’s incredibly important for us to focus on spreading the COBie concept further, to countries other than the UK and the US. I’ve worked on projects in Japan, China and South East Asian Countries that all followed the standards from the UK and the US and we want to continue moving forward in that digital transformation.
I think of it in a similar way to the introduction of BIM by Revit in the past. They Pushed the BIM concept while serving Revit Autodesk as a product - initiating the guidelines and standards. It has become the standard - if you want to use BIM you need to be able to use Revit Autodesk, pass the exam, and work on BIM products.
COBie needs to go in the same direction - if people are able to take the exam globally, so many more people can benefit from COBie as a system.
To find out more about the buildingSMART COBie Certified Professional™ examination and understand if it’s right for you, visit the COBie Certified Professional™ Examination Structure page on our website.