My thoughts about IFC and BIM

Have you ever heard of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)? Some see IFC as the glue that could hold the construction and building industry together – well, at least when it comes to sharing building information about a project.

So, if you’re ready to learn all about BIM and IFC, how they relate, and how it can revolutionize your construction projects, let’s get started!

1) What is IFC?

An IFC file is a model file created in the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) formats, an open file format used by Building Information Modeling (BIM) programs. It contains a building or facility model, including spatial elements, materials, and shapes.

buildingSMART’s technical core is based around Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), which was ISO certified in 2013. It is an open, international standard (ISO 16739-1:2018) and promotes vendor-neutral, or agnostic, and usable capabilities across a wide range of hardware devices, software platforms, and IFC-based applications. IFC is a platform-independent, open data model that enables the exchange of BIM content between different software programs, allowing users to share IFC-based IFC models between applications.

2) What are IFC models?

IFC model files can be imported into various software programs, such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) software. This allows for better collaboration between different teams working on a project, as everyone has access to the same information.

3) What is the IFC data format/IFC schema?

The IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) data format is a standard used in the construction and building industry to store and exchange information about a construction project. The IFC format includes information about the geometry, materials, schedules, and quantities of building elements, as well as the spatial relationships between them.

The IFC schema is a set of rules that defines what can be included in an IFC file and how the data elements are related to each other. The schema is written in XML and is used to ensure that IFC files are organized consistently and can be read by software applications that support the IFC standard. The latest version of the IFC schema is IFC4, which was released in 2018. The IFC schema facilitates interoperability and collaboration among different stakeholders in a construction project.

4) BIM and IFC for Interoperability

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building or infrastructure project. BIM is used to facilitate the coordination, planning, design, construction, and management of projects. IFC files are an essential part of BIM as they enable interoperability between different software applications and allow for better collaboration between different teams. IFC files can be used to transfer data between BIM software, such as Autodesk Revit and Bentley MicroStation, or other project management software applications. This ensures that all stakeholders involved in a project have access to the same information.

5) How does IFC work?

The IFC protocol empowers users to translate and incorporate the IFC data into different software programs. It is an open, platform-independent system that has been arranged in a way that enables stakeholders of a project to access and share their work on one consistent model. Consequently, with this structure of information exchange between different software applications, tasks can be completed more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

6) What does an IFC BIM file contain?

It contains building geometry and building data. These include all the information contained inside the BIM file and some subsets of that information. Transformation of native data in an IFC file is a way to exchange data between applications.

7) BIM data exchange formats

Exchange formats for BIM data, such as IFC, are used to facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders in a project. IFC is an open international standard that is ISO certified and allows IFC-based capabilities to be shared across a wide range of hardware devices and software platforms. IFC files are essential for BIM data exchange, and IFC models are shared between software applications for better collaboration.

8) How to open an IFC file?

Many software applications support the IFC format, including:

Some of these applications are designed specifically for viewing and reviewing IFC data.

Plannerly is one of these applications. With Plannerly’s Verify module, you can view, interrogate and check IFC files.

In addition to these proprietary software applications, there are also a number of open-source tools that can work with IFC files.

Not all software applications that use the IFC format can use all of the data in an IFC file. Some applications may only be able to use some of the data, while others can use more.

Additionally, different software applications can show IFC data differently, so it is always a good idea to check that the software you are using will work with the IFC data you have.


IFC is an open international standard used in BIM projects to facilitate interoperability and collaboration. These IFC files contain building geometry and data, which can be shared across different software applications using IFC-based capabilities. IFC files are essential for data exchange in BIM, and many proprietary and open-source software applications support IFC files.

Plannerly can open IFC files, making it a useful tool for construction and building professionals who need to collaborate on projects. With the ability to import IFC files, Plannerly makes it easy for different teams to work together and share project data.

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1. Other Interesting Reads ⤵

2. The Complete BIM Management Workflow [VIDEO] 🎥

Here’s a video that I think you’ll find valuable 👍 – it covers the complete BIM management workflow:

Complete BIM Workflow

3. Answers to some related IFC BIM questions that I often get asked 🤔

I’ve also tried to summarize below some answers to the most common questions that I get asked about this subject – I hope you can use them too:

What is BIM (Building Information Modeling)?

BIM is a way to create and manage information about buildings using 3D modeling software. This process can be used for design, construction, and operations. BIM enables different people working on the same project (such as architects, engineers, and contractors) to share information more efficiently and accurately. Using BIM can help improve the quality and sustainability of a building.

What is ifcXML?

The IFC XML format uses the Extensible Markup Language (XML). This format uses text to put data in a way that both people and machines can read and use. The IFC XML standard is kept up-to-date by buildingSMART International. This is an organization that helps construction and facility management companies use open standards.

IFC-XML has a file extension “.ifcXML”. These formats can be integrated with an XML framework and exchange part-built models. As compared to IFC file format, the IFC-XML is 300-400% larger in size. IFC-ZIP: It is a ZIP compressed version of IFC or IFC-XML where the one of these files lie the main directory of the zip archive. This format compresses an .ifc down by 60-80% and a .ifc XML file by 90-95%. IFC Architecture The IFC specification includes terms, concepts and data specification items that originate from use within disciplines, trades, and professions of the construction and facility management industry sector.

Can Revit open an IFC file?

Yes, Revit can open IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) files. You can also export an IFC file by going to the “File” menu and selecting “Export” followed by “IFC.” Revit supports both IFC2x3 and IFC4 file formats, and you can choose which version to use when exporting an IFC file.

How is the IFC format used in BIM?

The IFC format is a way that different software applications can share information about construction projects. This happens in a consistent and interoperable way. The IFC format includes information about the geometry, materials, schedules, and quantities of building elements, as well as the spatial relationships between them.

What is the difference between IFC2x3 and IFC4?

IFC2x3 and IFC4 are both versions of the IFC standard for storing and exchanging building data. IFC2x3 is the previous version of the standard, while IFC4 is the latest version. IFC4 introduces new concepts and capabilities that were not present in IFC2x3, such as the ability to model building services and infrastructure and improved support for sustainability and energy analysis. However, many software applications still use IFC2x3 because it is still widely used and supported.

I blog for the Five BIM Bloggers series.

Every week we share different perspectives on important BIM topics!

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