IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)

What is an IFC file?

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) files are coming from the STEP format, originating from the manufacturing industry (creating products in series). A format was needed that offered  a common ground where  information could flow continuously from one project member to another. 

From the STEP format, the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry (AEC) took a different road in 1994,  evolving  into the current IFC. 

IFC is a standard for the open BIM data exchange. It can be thought of  as the  PDF of Building Information Modeling (BIM). IFC files, like PDFs, are a frozen version of the original material.They can be viewed, measured, and used for cost estimation or simulation, among other things, but they are  not intended to be modified. IFC is continuously improving since it is an open standard. That means that it is not a proprietary format, so anyone can contribute to improve or enhance it. IFC is  organized and managed by buildingSMART. It is well documented; with resources available for everyone to see and access. That contributes to its  durability. 

Generating an IFC file captures a moment in your project. It is like taking a picture of a design, saving the view  and issuing it as an IFC file. In other words, it is a snapshot. Any time there is a new revision, it  means  there is a new moment,so a new IFC is produced. 

Many municipalities, private clients, contractors, and designers have integrated IFC BIM into their business. In countries like Norway, the government (The Norwegian Government, Health, and Defense) requires the use of IFC BIM on all projects.


Why IFC? 

People in the AECO industry, even though they are in competition to achieve some projects,  all agree on one thing. Any project requires Information to Flow Continuously . That is why we need IFC. Any project in the AECO industry (Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation) requires IFC, to facilitate interoperability. 


Information loss? 

IFC can be described as a container, for both data and properties. IFC files contain data related to objects, i.e., geometry and metadata with values attached. There are classes to describe multiple things so a lot of information can be packed into an IFC file. This box won’t lose data or any information provided. But, since it is a common ground, a minimum requirement for everyone, it is not necessary to add not every data because it won’t be useful to the other team members working on the same project. 


IFC Classes 

IFC classes
Credit: Léon van Berlo via https://www.researchgate.net/figure/List-of-IFC-classes-that-could-be-useful-in-a-geospatial-context_fig2_226107766


Any project requires IFC files. Sometimes, subcontractors work with very specific software that can produce IFCs, and you will need  to integrate this in your workflow. Your customers and your clients might realize that  the way to go and to store the information for the future is through the use of an open standard… and this is IFC.


If you want to learn more about IFC watch our webinar here