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.

Clash Detection

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

Clash detection