In our last post, we have dealt with BIM and introduced its potentialities in the field of timber constructions. Today we are going to discuss the IFC exchange format and its applications.
What is the IFC?
The IFC file (Industry Foundation Classes) is a format which is totally neutral, because it does not belong to one specific service provider; developed in 1994 by the International Alliance for Interoperability (today’s BuildingSmart, a worldwide authority driving the transformation of the built asset economy through creation and adoption of open, international standards), it aims to simplify the exchange of information among the disciplines involved in the design process, and thanks to that it is widely used in BIM.
All the most important CAD softwares using BIM technology have a IFC-export functionality. In a typical .ifc output file, every object is linked to data such as, for example:
…and so on.
The strength of IFC can be easily explained looking over the tutorial of the BIM visualisation and support software Tekla Bim Sight (developed by Harpaceas S.r.l.), in which a number of models representing different aspects of the building (structure, MEP, envelope) are shown: these models can be gathered in a shared directory (a sort of ‘BIM Cloud’) and displayed at the same time. It is the so called Model Checking phase: in real time, clashes are found, files are updated and comments and tips can be left.
As an example, one of our technicians might need to associate a foundation (created with a software like Tekla Structures, specialised in concrete and steel structures) to a timber structure made with HSBcad; by means of other softwares like Archicad or Allplan, a building envelope could be added, and so on. With BIM, all the requirements of the design process are gathered on a single platform, from whom all the needed data can be extracted.
BIM is quickly spreading in construction companies all over Europe, but only 10% of professionals uses it in Italy. Why is BIM so little known in Italy? What are its limits?
Despite these limits, BIM offers great advantages:
Why must we all learn BIM.
The 2014/24/EU directive on Public Contracts says, at clause n. 22 c.4:
‘For public works contracts and design contests, Member States may require the use of specific electronic tools, such as of building information electronic modelling tools or similar.’
From 2016 onwards, member States must promote the use of BIM for EU-funded projects, to increase the effectivity and transparency in contract procedures.
It is clear that, despite its current limits, BIM represents the future the world of constructions and civil engineering are aspiring to. Therefore, it is our due, as professionals, to invest in training. Just because most of our colleagues don’t intend to abandon traditional methodologies, it does not mean that we can hesitate any further.
At Ergodomus, we already make use of BIM for our works. And what about you, is your company ready for BIM?
Written in collaboration with Francesca Bifulco, engineer and post-graduate degree in Timber Engineering, University of Bologna.