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IFC model and IFC-BIM link

What are IFC models? How do BIM and IFC relate?

IFC what’s it for? The main purpose of the IFC data format is to allow the interchange of an information model without loss or distortion of data or information. Let’s take a closer look at its features, advantages and its connection with BIM.

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is one of the most innovative and promising technologies in the construction sector.
BIM can be defined as a process of planning, design, implementation and maintenance of a building that uses the information model of a building containing all the information regarding its entire life-cycle.

Thanks to BIM, it is possible to recreate a virtual building model which is not a simple 3D representation, but a dynamic model that contains a range of information regarding:

• geometry
• materials
• load-bearing structural members
• thermal and energy performance characteristics
• technical installations
• costs
• health and safety aspects
• maintenance and facility management
• life cycle
• etc.

BIM and interoperability

IFC BIM interoperability

BIM interoperability

Design and construction of a building involving various technical roles each operating within their area of competence. This obviously leads to the strategic importance for the various participants to exchange information in order to effectively collaborate in the realization and management of a shared project.

And this is the main reason why the need to exchange a multidisciplinary data model arises by means of a standard file format, allowing a secure interoperability and interchange of data without introducing errors and/or loss of information. This is the true purpose of having the IFC data format and the IFC model.

What is the IFC data format

The IFC, Industry Foundation Classes, is a particular data format that has the purpose to allow the inter-exchange of an information model without loss or distortion of data.

It’s an open file format, neutral, not controlled by individual software houses and created to facilitate interoperability between different operators.

IFC is designed to process a building’s data model throughout its entire life cycle, from feasibility up to its realization and maintenance, passing through the various design and planning phases.

How does IFC work?

How does IFC work

How does IFC work

According to the “buildingSMART” consortium, IFC is the main tool used for Open BIM implementation, “…a universal approach to the collaborative design, realization, and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows”.

The IFC architecture bases its structure on:

• semantics
• relations
• properties


The elements are meant to describe the components of a building, such as plants, spaces, areas, furniture, structural elements (columns, beams, walls, slabs, etc.), including the specific properties of each object. Thanks to the division, each object can be associated with certain properties, such as:

• shape
• cost
• need for maintenance
• position
• energy performance
• their connection with other elements
• health and safety
• mechanical and physical characteristics


All of this data are, in general, codified according to these three available formats:

• .ifc: default file format based on the ISO-STEP standard
• .ifcxml: encoding based on XML file structure
• .ifczip: a compressed archive of one of these previous formats also containing additional material, such as PDFs or images

What are the advantages deriving from use of the IFC model

The main advantage offered by the IFC model is the ability to allow collaboration between the various technical roles involved in the construction process, allowing them to exchange information through a standard format.

This results in higher quality, the reduction of errors, reduction of costs and saving of time, with consistent data and information flowing from the design phase through to realization and maintenance.

IFC certification

The “buildingSMART International” has defined a certification process that guarantees that the correct import and export processes of IFC data are followed, ensuring compliance with standards.

All IFC certified software are able to read, write and exchange information with other software solutions and according to data provided by buildingSMART, the IFC standard is currently supported by over 140 software platforms.

ACCA software is the company with the highest number of IFC software certified by buildingSMART international in the world.

usBIM.viewer+, also certified by buildingSMART®, is the IFC viewer to manage your IFC files. With a single tool you can view, edit, convert and share IFC models.