What is COINS?

Coins is the open standard for the implementation of Building Information Models (BIM). To this end, the system provides:

  • Agreements on the structure and design of a Building Information Model (BIM);
  • The COINS Container data exchange format;
  • A set of basic information management principles;
  • Specifications for a building information system.

These agreements are a key factor in terms of construction process integration. The COINS system is based on the concept of virtual construction. Virtual construction aims to make construction information accessible to the various parties involved in a construction project by means of Building Information Systems. Thanks to this underlying basis, the COINS system can effortlessly facilitate the exchange of information between partners who apply the COINS Container data exchange format.

This page features an overview of COINS system essentials.

Which parties initiated COINS?

The COINS system was developed for and by the construction industry. Construction industry participants are represented in the COINS project group. The administrative board is made up of the COINS core group. The IT companies are represented in the Technical Committee. There are also various working groups. The COINS organisation is facilitated by SBRCURNET in Rotterdam. For a list of participants, see Participants.

Virtual construction

The COINS system is based on the principle that structures are recorded in digital format in the greatest possible level of detail before the start of actual construction work. This philosophy is referred to as ‘virtual construction’. The virtual structure is the result of specifications and designs and forms the basis for purchasing, logistics, realisation, quality assurance, etc.

Two key parties play a central role in the construction of new structures. Firstly, the stakeholder – a party with a specific problem that is to be resolved through the construction of a new structure. The second party is responsible for the realisation of this structure – this party is known as the structure supplier. The scope of the COINS system extends to all information needed for the design and realisation of the structure. As the image illustrates, this is the structure supplier’s area of activity; the structure supplier exchanges information with the stakeholder in aid of coordination and decision-making processes.

The structure is realised through cooperation between various partners. These partners may be either private individuals, departments or companies. In turn, each of these companies may have its own partners and subcontractors. Virtual construction is thus facilitated by a network of cooperating parties. The COINS system aims to ensure seamless cooperation between this network of parties during the realisation of the structure.

The structure

The structure, which lies at the heart of the COINS system, can be regarded as a collection of interconnected objects. The digital representation of a structure should be designed in such a way that it can be worked with effortlessly and without error, preferably in a way that closely represents reality. The COINS system meets this need. All components, from the smallest to the most complex assembly, can be regarded as an object. The term object can be applied to a pump and an individual screw, or to an intermediate floor, a building, a marina, a viaduct or a sand body. In short, every aspect of a structure is an object. An object may consist of one or more objects. This means a group of composite objects can also be regarded as an object. This helps to simplify the digital scale model, since a structure consisting of objects can be represented as a hierarchy (see image on the right). This hierarchy is also referred to as an ‘object tree’.

Building Information Model

We aim to make structural information available for various construction process activities. We achieve this by storing the structural information in a predetermined format. This is known as the Building Information Model. This model is part of the COINS system and is referred to as the COINS Building Information Model or CBIM for short.

The CBIM serves as a central database for the various stakeholders. It contains information on the various structures and other structural aspects. The key information items stored in the CBIM include:

  • The structure’s intended purposes
  • The various rooms and objects and their respective decompositions
  • The connections between the various objects
  • The relevant requirements in terms of functionality, rooms and objects
  • Object performance
  • The documents needed to describe the structure
  • Descriptions of the various catalogue components
  • Object-library references
  • Object-3D model references
  • The information that serves as a basis for recording requirement verifications.

For more information on the Building Information Model, click here: BIM.

Reference frameworks

The COINS system is a flexible, modular standard. At its core lies the CBIM Building Information Model. The CBIM can be augmented with one or more additional models, which serve as a supplement for specific areas of application. These supplements are referred to as reference frameworks. Examples include the reference frameworks for ´Functional specification´ and ´Quantity estimates´.

The various parties are free to develop their own reference frameworks, providing these manuals have been harmonised with the core model and do not contain any supplements that conflict with this model.

Building Information System

In order to align an information system with the COINS system, software suppliers will need access to detailed CBIM specifications. These are featured in the Reference Manual. Building information systems that meet COINS system specifications are also referred to with the abbreviation CBIS.

Information transfer and management

Partners providing information as part of a construction project must ensure that this information is aligned with the Building Information Model. The COINS Container data exchange format was developed specifically for this purpose. The COINS Container features:
  • A standard packaging, consisting of a file with a .ccr extension;
  • Standard content that meets CBIM specifications.

In order for a software application to be successfully aligned with the COINS system, the application must be capable of reading and writing a COINS Container. Software suppliers and IT specialists can find the relevant specifications in the Reference Manual.

The development of a structure is a creative and evolutionary process; making changes is an inherent part of this process. In order to ensure that this process is completed in an orderly manner, the COINS system specifies that the following aspects of each information object must be recorded and regularly updated in a building information system:

  • Version
  • Release status
  • Baseline status
  • Validity status
  • Creator and creation date
  • Editor and editing date

The COINS system also offers the option of restricting the reading and writing authorisations allocated to executive roles. This feature is known as 'Window of Authorisation'.


Libraries are useful tools that allow the parties working on a construction project to record a collection of components and the relevant specifications. According to COINS system specifications, each building information model must contain such a feature. Libraries can be used to:

  • Copy component descriptions from industry libraries;
  • Store the results of a completed design phase in such a way that this information can be used by those working on subsequent phases.

Harmonisation with other methods and standards

The COINS programme was developed by and for the construction industry, and reflects four current developments affecting this industry:

  1. Systems Engineering as a construction-specific development approach for technical and project management processes
  2. Object approach as the starting point for a construction-specific 3D modelling environment for the technical development process
  3. 3D modelling applied in support of the technical development process
  4. Process integration in aid of targeted information flows and information management. Agreements regarding the exchange and use of information in aid of communication between and within organisations (interoperability) are key to all these aspects.

The COINS system is also aligned with the following standards:

  • IFC: an international standard for the exchange of 3D geometry data
  • IDM Part 2: an ISO International Standard 29481-2:2012 (Information Delivery Manual - Interaction framework); this standard is based on the Dutch VISI standard
  • Object Libraries such as Cheobs (civil engineering), IFD Library (residential and non-residential building) and ETIM (electrical and mechanical engineering).

External links

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