IFC. What is it, what for and what is its relationship with BIM?

Industry Foundation Classes

IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) is a standard data format which objective is the exchange of information between files that have been made by different authors; something like a PDF applied to BIM. It is an open, neutral format, not controlled by software producers, born to facilitate interoperability between various operators.

It is the main tool for the realization of the Open BIM, which represents a universal method for collaboration in the design and construction of buildings based on open standards and workflows.

Current BIM systems can create proprietary representations of construction components. IFC adds a common language to transfer that information between different BIM applications, while maintaining the meaning of different pieces of information in the transfer. This reduces the need to remodel the project in each different application. It also adds transparency to the process.

In the BIM methodology, professionals can use software from different companies, but the IFC format can link them together when exchanging valid information, regardless of the base software used.

What are the advantages of the IFC:

The main advantage offered by the IFC format is the possibility of collaboration between several figures involved in the construction process allowing the exchange of information through a standard format, in addition to easily linking alphanumeric information (properties, classification, quantities …)

It also speeds up the work, all the information of the constructive object is defined only once, providing consistency to the shared information of the project. It unifies the language of the different elements of the project, enabling the detection of possible errors or clash detection.

This leads to a higher quality, a decrease in design errors, a reduction in costs and time savings with consistency of data and information throughout the execution and maintenance process.

This format has been created by the BuildingSMART organization, formerly known as the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI). BuildingSMART is an international organization that aims to improve the exchange of information between software applications used in the construction industry.

Currently,work in being done to formalize the IFC in other projects, such as linear engineering projects.

What is the relationship between IFC files and tenders?

With the arrival of the mandatory BIM requirements in certain tender processes in the public sector, the IFC format becomes more important, since the tender documents specify deliverables with the standardized IFC.

In summary, administrations will request the drawings in pdf and the IFC of the BIM model.


Errors that are normally detected on site can now be discovered and anticipated in the office through the BIM model, with the “Clash Detection” or “Interference Detection” tool:

What is an interference? An interference occurs when different elements intersect in the same space.

We highlight 3 types of Interference Detection:

  1.  Hard Clash or Hard Interference: that happens when two objects cross each other.
  2. Soft Clash or Soft Interference: that happens when objects invade geometric tolerances of other objects.
  3. 4D / Workflow Clash or Workflow Interference: which resolves crashes and programming anomalies, as well as delivery interferences.

Advantages of Clash Detection or Interference Detection:

  • It helps us to identify, inspect and notify Interferences quickly and efficiently in a project model between multiple disciplines: architectural, structural or MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing).
  • Benefits cost control, accelerating the construction process and having a perfect design for the construction phase between architects, engineers and contractors.
  • It also provides a collaborative approach and helps finalize design changes in a very interactive way for the user. All these benefits have made clash detection and BIM coordination, one of the fundamental characteristics in virtual construction technology.

In conclusion, the detection of clashes will undoubtedly reduce construction time, minimize errors and provide a great understanding of the functionalities of the design before construction.

Today, most of the world’s leading construction, engineering and architecture companies rely on the capabilities of BIM platforms for design coordination, conflict detection and resolution, as well as programming. 3D modelling and the Common Data Environment (CDE) within BIM helps them greatly to reduce design errors.

When planning is done in advance, it reduces costs and modifications at later stages. The biggest advantage of the projects implemented by BIM is that it allows to take informed decisions in the early stages and saves engineers, MEP contractors and stakeholders a lot of issues at the end of the project.

Our company SDEA, uses Bentley Systems BIM technology for our designs, and a key tool that facilitates the good result of them, is the “Clash Detection” or “Interference Detection” tool. This tool detects conflicts, either between our models and point clouds, or between different models, elements, etc.

Together with ProjectWise, another collaborative working tool and managed environment from Bentley Systems, workflows are simplified and communication between the different parties involved in a Project is improved, which translates into a reduction in time and costs within the Project.

Example of Clash Detection applied in one of our designs for installation of electrical disconnectors in railway electrification network.


Clash detection


Temperature inside the Equipment in a sterilization process simulation

The implementation of new technologies in the industry is continuously increasing. The transition from the classical model of industry to the Factory of the Future and Industry 4.0 is an increasingly tangible reality. Furthermore, in Galicia, where the food and canning sector is at the forefront, it is necessary to search for and implement these new technologies in order to guarantee industrial competitiveness in the face of commercial pressure from third parties.

The EMTyS project (Thermal Multiprocessing Equipment and CFD/DES Simulation) was born from this idea. The objective of this project is to create a small equipment that can carry out the most common thermal processes in the food sector, such as sterilization, cooking, defrosting, etc.; and to complement it with computer tools and new technologies, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Discrete Event Simulation (DES) and Virtual Reality. In this way, the aim is to model these processes by computer and optimize them before taking them to an operating industrial plant, thus achieving a significant impact on the saving of raw materials and energy consumed.

The EMTyS project, financed through the Conecta Peme 2018 programme of the Galician Agency for Innovation (GAIN) and co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), is carried out through the participation of several companies: TACORE, CITEGA, SDEA_Engineering Solutions and SOLTEC INGENIEROS, and with ANFACO-CECOPESCA as the technological centre.

Within this ambitious project, the work of SDEA_Engineering Solutions consists of the creation of a computer application that allows several iterations of different simulations of thermal processes used in the food sector using Computational Fluid Dynamics techniques.

This branch of engineering makes possible to create a 3D model of the Multiprocess Equipment with the product inside and to simulate a great variety of thermal processes using a computer by making use of a GUI (Graphic User Interface) that is easy to use. Thus, it will be possible to analyze the evolution that the products will have over time without having to waste raw material for it. Thanks to this, companies will be able to test their processing “recipes” on the computer in a simple way before testing them on the product.

Combining this with comprehensive monitoring in the simulations, areas within the equipment itself with low thermal output, or process recipes with insufficient energy optimization can be examined. This real-time monitoring in the simulations at any point of the Equipment is totally unfeasible in a real process, so this application becomes an ideal assistant for any manufacturer or process designer who wants to achieve the highest quality in their products without having to give up optimal energy efficiency in their plant.

Real time temperature and pressure evolution graphs during a simulation


GRC Facade Panel

Complex architectural elements are becoming increasingly common, and it is therefore necessary to use appropriate tools to support the challenges of the industry. An example of this is façades made in GRC.

The challenges related to enclosures and façades, with increasingly demanding requirements in structure, energy and aesthetic criteria have made certain methods guided by regulations [EUROCODE, ASHRAE…] somewhat obsolete. Advanced calculation methods are unavoidable in the construction industry.

SDEA_Engineering Solutions, with extensive experience in complex system calculations, has been involved in projects related to the GFRC [GlassFiber Reinforced Concrete] industry and its application to façades, providing design support using finite element models. Particular features of GFRC including anisotropic behaviourtypicalof materials in the concrete family and failure models, which were successfully used to shorten the design process and the construction of test prototypes.

GRC Panel

The SDEA_Engineering Solutions team has also participated in other areas related to construction, including calculations ranging from dimensioning structures with exceptional loads such as seismic and dynamic wind response to HVAC and acoustic comfort.