Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) started as a solution to one of the biggest challenges in construction: the lack of standardization in data exchange. Created in the late 90s under the auspices of the organization International Alliance for Interoperability, which later became known as buildingSMART, IFC standards are designed to support the digital exchange and archiving of project information across different software applications. The first official version of IFC, known as IFC 1.0, was released in 1997, marking the beginning of data standardization in construction.

From its initial idea to today, the path of IFC standards reflects the need for the construction industry to move into the digital age. With technological advancements and an increasing demand for more efficient design methods, IFC has become a key element in BIM (Building Information Modeling) processes, allowing architects, engineers, and builders to work more in sync. In 2013, the IFC standard became the international standard ISO 16739, which increased its credibility and adoption globally.

Technical Insight: How Do IFC Work?

IFC is a rich data model that can represent various aspects of building objects – from physical components to functional properties. The IFC structure is modular, which allows for scalability and adaptability at different stages of a construction project. Its format is designed to support both visualization and simulations, which is extremely important for planning, execution, and management of buildings.

Using IFC formats in projects allows everyone involved to focus on improving accuracy, reducing losses, and optimizing workflows. This type of interoperability helps reduce risks and improve communication between different teams.

Practical Example

As we mentioned in our previous article “What Is BIM?“, BIM is not just about geometry; models also come attached with attributes. In the image below, you can see an example of a street lamp that we created in the “Plateia” software, to which we attached some basic attributes (you can learn more about the process in this video >> BIM – Defining and Attaching Property Sets).

If we now save the drawing, it will be stored in the .dwg format. If this drawing were then sent to another designer who uses Autodesk Civil 3D or BricsCAD, there would be no issues opening it, as these programs support the .dwg format. However, a problem arises if we want to open this drawing in a software program that does not support the .dwg format.

To prevent this, we can export the model from “Plateia” to the IFC format, which can be easily opened in the “X” software. In this “X” program, the user can view the model in detail, measure its dimensions, check quantities and collisions, and create cost and schedule simulations. However, the user cannot modify it, which is why IFC is often referred to as the PDF for construction; it is a copy of the original that, in principle, we cannot edit.

Why Are IFC Crucial for Modern Construction?

    • Improved Communication: IFC allows different BIM systems to communicate with each other, reducing the chances of errors and inconsistencies that often arise from software incompatibilities.
    • Data Standardization: IFC provides a consistent and standardized data format, which facilitates further analyses and evaluations of projects.
    • Supporting Sustainable Construction: With the ability to accurately model materials and structures, IFC contributes to more sustainable construction projects.

What’s in Store for the Future?

The future of IFC looks bright, as the industry is increasingly moving towards fully digitalized and automated processes. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable even greater integration of IFC standards into construction projects, bringing a higher level of automation and precision. Thus, IFC will continue to play a key role in shaping more efficient and responsive construction processes.