CAD Interoperability is a key topic in the construction, architecture, and engineering industry. The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) format is a CAD exchange data schema intended for describing data in the architecture, construction, and building industry. It is an open, platform-neutral data schema specification that is not controlled by a single vendor or group of vendors. The data model is developed by buildingSMART to facilitate interoperability in the AEC industry and is a commonly used collaboration format in Building Information Modeling (BIM) projects.
The IFC format is registered by ISO and is an official international standard. Due to its focus on interoperability, the Danish government has made the use of the IFC format mandatory for construction projects financed by public funds. Other countries such as Finland and Norway have also started to require the use of IFC-compatible software in all their projects. The popularity of the IFC format in construction continues to grow, particularly for geometry exchange.
The IFC format defines several file formats that can be used, supporting various encodings of the same underlying data. The IFC-SPF format is the most widely used as it offers a compact size and readable text. The IFC-XML format is suitable for interoperability with XML tools and partial building model exchange, but due to the size of typical building models, this format is less common in practice.
The architecture of the IFC format defines an entity relationship model based on EXPRESS, which consists of several hundred entities organized in an object-based inheritance hierarchy. The entities include building elements such as IfcWall, geometry such as IfcExtrudedAreaSolid, and basic structures such as IfcCartesianPoint.
IFC is an important file format for CAD interoperability in the construction industry. The different available IFC file formats offer great flexibility in data exchange, while the architecture of the IFC format is well defined and allows for easy integration with CAD tools. Companies in the construction and CAD industry should consider the IFC format as a key element of their interoperability strategy.
CAD Interop distributes several software solutions to visualize, convert, and compare IFC files. Below is a list of our solutions compatible with the IFC format: