Automating Carbon Assessments with xbim and Cobuilder

Automating Carbon Assessments with xbim and Cobuilder

As part of Cobuilder’s Define Hackathon in November 2023, the team at xbim integrated the data held within Cobuilder’s Define product with already present BIM (Building Information Modelling) information to enrich the data set and provide useable carbon assessment information.  We used our Flex Flow product to do this, let’s look at the Hackathon problem and our solution in more detail.  

One of the key pain points for many clients in the built environment is standardization of data across the building lifecycle. The terminology used by an architect may be different from that used by the manufacture. Creating a method of standization and automation can alleviate discrepancies and increase data accuracy.  


Figure 01 – Closing the Data Circle 

Cobuilder’s suite of products are focused on product data (Cobuilder GoBIM) and standards information (Define). Linking information from within Cobuilder’s databases accurately with a BIM to enrich the model data and provide more meaningful results can unlock the usefulness of a model for many clients. Better, reliable data can be used to inform design, build and material choices for reduced environmental impact, greater efficiency and a more collaborative approach to the construction lifecycle.  


Figure 02 – Linked Data using Define, Xbim and CoBuilder. 

In the Hackathon use case the Flex Flow module works as an automation engine, repetitive or/and time-consuming tasks can be set-up in a workflow that is triggered when a specified action occurs.  

Flex Flow demonstrates how we can automate the process of data validation, updating the BIM with additional information. The data validation process checks the integrity of the data, confirming the accuracy of the model before carrying out additional steps. It is a key element in the procedure of calculating carbon, as when we compute our calculations from values within the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file they can be invalid due to duplicated or missing values.  


Figure 03 – Complete Process Diagram 


Once validated, we increase the quality of data in the IFC file, using the Template API (Application Programming Interface). To update the IFC files, we locate the missing values by comparing the retrieved template with the original IFC.We do this by querying the API with the unique identifies of either IFC class or/and name. Once the template for the product has been acquired, we can then retrieve further information on the product data by using the Cobuilder goBIM  database. With the new data on product volumes etc, Flex Flow writes a new IFC file with the acquired data to be able to more effectively carry-out our carbon assessment.  

The carbon assessment algorithm extracts the mass of the product from the IFC files and then multiply this mass with the carbon impact. As historically, carbon assessment is difficult to accurately calculate and update in model iterations. Our solution, combining Cobuilder’s data sets and our flex flow functionality, not only simplifies the collection of carbon information but increases carbon assessment accuracy through unification of data and automation.  

After calculations have been completed, we can then update the IFC file with the assessment data through writing a new IFC file with the additional information. We can use this data within the Flex Asset Information Management (AIM) module, which uses OpenBIM files to inform a cloud-based database enabling users to unlock information in BIM files through an OpenAPI. Our FlexComms module, is a no install way of communicating BIM information across project teams and different companies without the need for proprietary software.