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faq general questions

General questions about buildingSMART, IAI, and IFC

 

  1. What/who is buildingSMART? How does it work with IAI/IFC?
  2. Who owns IFC? Can we trust its future?
  3. What is IFC all about?
  4. What is the difference between BIM and IFC?
  5. How does it relate to other file formats?
  6. Who develops IFC? What is the procedure for IFC development?
  7. Who decides about what becomes part of the IFC standard?
  8. What is the quality assurance system applied to the development and maintenance of IFC?
  9. How is the IFC model maintained?
  10. Are there any costs attached to using IFC?
  11. I heart that IFC is an exchange standard between CAD programs, can IFC provide more then the exchange of geometry?

 


 

Q.     What/who is buildingSMART? How does it work with IAI/IFC?

A:     buildingSMART is an international, non-for-profit organization that has been established to support companies within the AEC/FM industries on "“The route to integrated project working in design, construction and facilities management”. Its vision is "To provide a universal basis for process improvement and information sharing in the design, construction and facilities management industries". buildingSMART is represented internationally as buildingSMART International Ltd. and regionally by buildingSMART chapters.
buildingSMART is the new name and brand of the International Alliance for Interoperability, IAI. It is the same organization. Since the foundation of IAI, now buildingSMART, the development of an international format to exchange and share building information has been a core activity. The Industry Foundation Classes, IFC, are the continuous outcome of the mission "buildingSMART is integrated project working and value-based life cycle management using Building Information Modelling and IFC".


Q:     Who owns IFC? Can we trust its future?

A:     The IFC specification is copyrighted by buildingSMART international, an international non-for-profit industry alliance. Established in 1995 buildingSMART is a long-standing organization that continuously develops and maintains IFC as part of its mission. The IFC specification is a neutral and open specification that is not controlled by a singular vendor or group of vendors. It is freely available on the web.


Q:     What is IFC all about?

A:     IFC represents a data schema for sharing construction and facility management data across various applications used in the AEC/FM industry domain. It is an object-oriented data schema based on class definitions representing the objects (such as building elements, spaces, properties, shapes, etc.) that are used by different software applications used in construction or facility management project.


Q:     What is the difference between BIM and IFC?

A:     BIM stands either for the verb "Building Information Modelling", i.e. for an integrated process of designing, engineering, constructing and maintaining a building based on a consistent and shareable computer representation of the facility including both graphical and non-graphical information. Or for the noun "Building Information Model", i.e. a digital representation of the building in software based on object information combining graphical and non-graphical properties. BIM Software often relates to 3D and object-based CAD.
IFC is an open standard to represent the information in a building information model that can be used to openly exchange and share this information among many different software systems. It supports BIM as "a computable representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility and its related project/life-cycle information using open industry standards to inform business decision making for realizing better value (NIBS - Facility Information Council)"


Q:    How does it relate to other file formats?

A:     It differentiates itself from other formats by its object focus and its openness.
Object focus: IFC is a standard for building information models, not for drawings. It enables to exchange information about building structures, elements, spaces and other objects in a BIM. 3D and 2D shape, properties and attributes, parameters and relationships (e.g. connectivity) among elements are examples for the content of IFC. Actual IFC files are based on a view definition that determines the scope of the IFC exchange.
Openness: IFC is an open specification, supported by an international, non-for-profit organization and it is registered with ISO as ISO16739. It is not owned by a single vendor or group of vendors.


Q:     Who develops IFC? What is the procedure for IFC development?

A:     IFC is developed as an open standard by buildingSMART International that has implemented a standing group, the Modelling Support Group MSG to develop and maintain the IFC standard. This website is the website of buildingSMART MSG and contains all official information around IFC.


Q:     Who decides about what becomes part of the IFC standard?

A:     The basic development direction of IFC is a decision made by buildingSMART International. New general additions to IFC, increasing general scope, have to be proposed to buildingSMART International as an IFC extension project proposal. The technical decision making group, ITM, votes on accepting such a new IFC extension projects.
Minor additions can be handled by the general maintenance process between IFC releases and may lead to an intermediate minor update, i.e. a technical corrigendum. Issues are resolved by the Modeling Support Group MSG based on a consensus driven process. Voting would provide an ultimate decision. Maintaining the integrity of the overall IFC architecture is the responsibility of the MSG lead.


Q:    What is the quality assurance system applied to the development and maintenance of IFC?

A:    Any new release, minor or major, includes an open review process. The pre-releases, alpha, beta and release candidate, are published on this website, and an announcement for review is made. The internal review is performed by MSG itself. Each part of the IFC specification (short form schema) has an “owner” being responsible for proposing and doing the changes and additions, and 1-2 internal reviewers, counter checking the changes and additions. The external review is open for all interested in further development and quality improvement of IFC. There is a public invitation for review over this website and the online IFC Review issue database, see http://www.iai-tech.org/jira/browse/IFR. The software companies organized in the Implementation Support Group, ISG of buildingSMART are particularly encouraged to participate.


Q:     How is the IFC model maintained?

A:    The Model Support Group MSG is responsible for maintaining IFC. It keeps on internal issue database to log and resolve all issues brought forward. It keeps a strong link to the Implementation Support Group, ISG to follow and support the IFC implementation activities and to learn from all upcoming questions as being issues to be addressed by improving the IFC Specification, implementation guides and accompanying documents.


Q:     Are there any costs attached to using IFC?

A:    No. Using the IFC specification and the IFC schema is free.
Implementing IFC is royalty free. As a developer you may consider the cost of a toolbox that helps compiling IFC for your application, and for using the buildingSMART certification process for quality assurance. As a user you will see that most of the IFC import/export comes within the main product line at no extra cost, however it is in the software vendor’s own discretion to decide. Being a member of buildingSMART would bring added value to both developers and users worth the membership fee. Membership is required for certification.


Q:     I heart that IFC is an exchange standard between CAD programs, can IFC provide more then the exchange of geometry?

A:    Yes. In fact, the main purpose of IFC is to exchange information about a building, which may include geometry, but is by no means limited to this. Linking alphanumeric information (properties, quantities, classification, etc.) to the building objects and maintaining the relationships among the building objects is a main feature of IFC. IFC is also not restricted to be an exchange format between CAD programs, it can be used to bridge between different authoring and downstream applications, such as CAD-to-QTO, CAD-to-CAFM, CAFM-to-CAFM, structural modeling application to structural analysis application. The content of the IFC exchange is determined by the IFC view definition, so strictly speaking there is no IFC implementation, but several IFC view implementations.