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How to improve the integration between architectural plans and building system plans through the IFC-openBIM

Enhancing Integration Between Architectural and MEP Design with IFC openBIM

Streamlining communication and improving efficiency integrating the use of IFC openBIM in architectural and MEP design methods in construction projects.

In the realm of construction projects, effective communication and collaboration between different disciplines are crucial for success. One area that often faces challenges is the integration between architectural plans and MEP systems (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing). Errors, revisions, and delays can arise when these two aspects don’t seamlessly align.

However, with the advent of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) openBIM (Building Information Modeling), the integration process can be significantly improved. Let’s take a look at the more practical steps to enhance the integration between architectural and MEP design using IFC openBIM.

IFC openBIM: Bridging the Gap

IFC openBIM presents the solution for effective communication and coordination among designers working on the same construction project. By utilizing an open and non-proprietary file format, professionals using different software solutions can connect seamlessly. Rather than requiring the same software, an online BIM management system can be used to efficiently handle models. This approach enables the visualization of architectural, plant, and structural projects created with various BIM authoring software currently available.

Let’s delve into how we can improve the integration between architectural and MEP projects with IFC openBIM.

Understanding IFC OpenBIM

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) serve as an open, standardized, and non-proprietary BIM data exchange format, facilitating comprehensive and professional representation of building elements. In the realm of building-related information and installation systems, IFC openBIM stands as the reference standard for modeling and management in construction projects.

Differentiating IFC openBIM from Traditional BIM

Unlike traditional BIM practices that rely on proprietary file formats and closed systems, IFC openBIM operates on a collaborative approach, leveraging open standards and non-proprietary file formats. This enables seamless communication and data exchange between different software applications, promoting interoperability.

How does IFC openBIM work?

Through a system of objects, attributes, and relationships, openBIM IFC allows for the detailed modeling of construction elements, including systems. This means that each building component can be represented accurately, encompassing technical characteristics of the installed plants, such as material type, power capacity, and gas pressure.

Utilizing IFC openBIM to improve integration between architectural and plant design

To enhance the integration between architectural and plant design through IFC openBIM, consider the following steps:

1. Embrace IFC OpenBIM as a Collaborative Solution

To fully leverage the potential of IFC openBIM, choose BIM modeling software that supports IFC file import and export. This ensures detailed modeling and enables smooth collaboration between architectural designers and installers, avoiding communication gaps and reducing errors.

Let’s see a practical example. The architectural designer generates the 3D model with his building design software and at the end of the operation, exports the model in the IFC open format and shares it with the installer. Next, the installer will be able to import the IFC architectural model into his BIM MEP systems software and add the plants design on the same model. This way of collaborating ensures fluidity in all phases of the design and helps to reduce the typical errors due to lack of communication and integration between the two design moments.

integration architectural and MEP design with IFC open BIM


2. Meticulous systems modelling

To improve integration between architectural and MEP design, it is essential to model installation systems in detail. This includes capturing technical specifications, material choices, power capacities, and other relevant information. By utilizing specialized BIM software for MEP systems, designers can accurately represent the systems’ components and verify their integration with the architectural design. Detailed modeling helps identify potential clashes or conflicts early in the design phase, avoiding costly revisions and delays during construction.

3. Use clash detection to identify conflicts

After completing architectural and plant modeling, perform clash detection to identify any conflicts between the building elements, including the installation systems. Dedicated BIM clash detection software allows you to verify integration accuracy and detect any geometric or informational conflicts.

integration architectural and MEP project

Clash detection between architectural and MEP model

4. Resolve issues with BCF

When conflicts arise, track and resolve them using BCF (BIM Collaboration Format). BCF is an open format that facilitates issue tracking during the design and construction phases, including those related to MEP systems. BCF reader enables collaboration and information sharing among professionals using different software applications.

This further enables to:

  • optimize the information exchange without having to transfer BIM models to other collaborators;
  • troubleshoot interoperability issues that occur when working with different software, or different versions of the same software;
  • speed up project reviewing process while still in the preliminary phase, resolving any critical issues before construction.
bcf format for architectural project and plant integration

Interoperability thanks to the BCF format

5. Promote collaboration among professionals

Improving integration requires the involvement of all professionals associated with the project, such as facilities designers, engineers, and architects. Regular Video Meeting, Conference calls and online collaboration tools ensure timely identification and resolution of integration problems.

6. Use openBIM IFC for building management and maintenance

The use of openBIM IFC is not limited to the design phase, but can also be extended to the management and maintenance of the building. Thanks to the openBIM IFC, in fact, it is possible to manage and maintain the plants in a more efficient and precise way, reducing maintenance costs and improving the quality of service.

To plan maintenance interventions, track all activities and manage problems throughout the life cycle of the work, it is advisable to use a Facility Management Software, with which:

  • securely collect all documentation in digital format;
  • you have all the information always updated, georeferenced and accessible everywhere;
  • manage communication and collaboration more easily with cloud platform and mobile app;
  • reduce the response time and completion of maintenance tasks.

Why is collaboration between architectural projects and MEP systems important?

Collaboration between architectural projects and MEP systems is essential to ensure that the design and construction of buildings meet customer requirements, are safe and efficient, and comply with relevant regulations and standards. In particular, MEP systems play a crucial role in the overall performance of a building, including energy efficiency, indoor air quality and occupant comfort. Therefore, effective communication and coordination between architectural projects and MEP systems are essential for successful projects.

How does the IFC facilitate communication between different project stakeholders?

IFC facilitates communication between different project stakeholders, providing a common language and data structure for building information. Using IFC, different software applications can seamlessly exchange data, allowing project stakeholders to access and use the same information for different purposes, such as design, analysis and construction. This reduces errors and rework and enables more efficient workflows.

How can openBIM standards improve integration between architectural projects and MEP systems?

OpenBIM standards and best practices provide a framework for effective collaboration and communication between different project stakeholders.

By following openBIM standards and best practices, project stakeholders can ensure that they use consistent data structures, file formats and terminology, enabling seamless data exchange and reducing errors and rework. OpenBIM standards and best practices also promote transparency and accountability, allowing project stakeholders to monitor changes and ensure that the project meets customer requirements and relevant regulations and standards.


Improving the integration between architectural and MEP design is crucial for successful construction projects. By leveraging the power of IFC openBIM, professionals can overcome communication challenges and achieve seamless collaboration. Utilizing IFC-compatible BIM modeling software, modeling systems in detail, employing clash detection, and utilizing BCF for issue tracking and resolution are key steps in enhancing integration. Embracing these practices empowers project stakeholders to minimize errors, improve coordination, and streamline the construction process. By prioritizing integration through IFC openBIM, the industry can embark on a path towards more efficient and successful construction projects.