IFC schema (part2): the IfcRelationship concept
IfcRelationship is the second pillar of the IFC data schema. Here are different relationship types between entities and properties explained in just a few steps
In this blog post we’re going to make a brief overview of the second pillar on which the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) format data schema is based, the
IfcRelationShip, i.e. different types of relationships that are established within the IFC schema. In our previous blog post, we’ve already looked at the
, the generalization of any semantically treated thing or process within the IFC, and the entities. Here are the links to the 3 contents forming the first level of specialization within the IFC class hierarchy:
- article regarding the IfcObject (IFC schema part 1)
- article regarding the IfcRelationship (IFC schema part 2)
- article reharding the IfcPropertyDefinition (IFC schema part 3).
The IFC model structure
The IFC schema can be considered as a storage system for organizing and transferring digital data, in order to facilitate interoperability between different subjects.
Additionally, the IFC defines a model integrated with hundreds of entities organized hierarchically.
There are 3 fundamental concepts on which the IFC logic is based and that represent its structure:
IfcObjectDefinition: stands for all entities (objects)
IfcRelationship: summarizes relationships between entities
IfcPropertyDefinition: describes properties associated with the entities.
IfcRelationship describes different types of relationships.
Specifically, there are 5 basic types of relationships in the IFC model, which are subtypes of the IfcRelationship class:
IfcRelConnectsis a connectivity relationship that connects objects based on certain criteria. For example, a slab connected to a beam or a partition wall supported on a floor slab
IfcRelAssociatesserves to relate external sources of information and associates them with objects or property definitions. The association relationship is one-way. An external IFC library in which the object or the information on the classification for a particular space inside a building is defined, could represent a valid example
IfcRelDecomposesdefines the general concept of elements that are composed or decomposed. Decompositions imply a hierarchy, where, the definition of the whole depends on the definition of the single parts and vice versa. Therefore, a cost item can be included in other items or a structural frame can be considered an aggregation of beams and columns
IfcRelDefinesis a relationship that allows an object instance to inherit a property set. For example, different instances of windows within the IFC model may be of the same type, (belonging to the same catalogue or manufacturer). Thereby they share the same information
IfcRelAssignsmakes explicit assignment relationships that arise when an object needs the services of another object. For example, we can assign a certain resource to an object.
Each of these 5 types allows the development of further relationships between objects, types, properties, etc. (subtypes trees) as shown in the following scheme:
The screenshots below taken from the usBIM.viewer+ working space outline different examples of relationships:
- in the first illustration we see how
IfcBuildingwith all the levels in which it is subdivided, i.e.
- in the second illustration it is shown how
IfcBuildingStoreywith all the entities belonging to it
- in the third one it is highlighted how
IfcRelConnectsPathElementsrelates the two contiguous entities (walls) contained in
Download the IFC viewer
If you’d like to test the concept of
IfcRelationship between the entities of a building (or parts of it), such as walls, floor slabs, windows, etc. simply download usBIM.viewer+, the freeware that allows you to open, analyze and edit an IFC file.
Read more about the IFC schema in our previous and upcoming posts: