IFC 4.3 and Its huge impact on the Industry


Explore the transformative impact of IFC 4.3, the latest ISO 16739 standard in Building Information Modeling (BIM). Understand its features, global significance, and how it enhances interoperability and sustainability in the BIM industry.

In an era where technological advancements are shaping the future of construction and architecture, the Building Information Modeling (BIM) industry stands at the forefront of this transformation. The recent approval of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) as the latest version of the ISO 16739 standard marks a pivotal moment in this journey.

From enhancing interoperability between diverse BIM software to ensuring future-proofing of BIM projects, the implications of IFC extend far beyond mere data exchange protocols. We’ll give a glimpse on how IFC is not just a standard, but a beacon guiding the BIM industry towards a more integrated, efficient, and innovative future.

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) serve as the backbone of data interoperability in the BIM ecosystem. It’s an open standard, ensuring that BIM data can be shared and understood across different software platforms. The schema of IFC, formulated in EXPRESS language, is the core structure for data representation. This schema is complemented by extensive documentation, property, and quantity set definitions in XML format, together with data exchange mechanisms. The prevalent format for data exchange, the Step Physical File Format, ensures clear-text encoding of entity instances. This comprehensive framework allows for effective data sharing and management in BIM processes.

IFC 4.3 introduces significant enhancements and updates to the previous versions. The Model View Definitions (MVDs) in IFC 4.3—Reference View, Alignment Based Reference View, and Design Transfer View—represent different levels of implementation, each adding more sophisticated features. The data schema architecture of IFC 4.3 is particularly noteworthy, with its four-layered approach: Resource, Core, Interoperability, and Domain layers. Each layer serves a distinct purpose, from providing basic resource definitions to facilitating inter-domain exchange and specialization within specific disciplines.

Understanding Industry Foundation Classes (IFC)

IFC is an open international standard crucial for sharing Building Information Model (BIM) data. The framework comprises four key components:

Schema: The IFC schema, defined in various forms including EXPRESS language, forms the backbone of the standard.

Documentation: Available in HTML and authored in Markdown, this component details the IFC specifications.

Property and Quantity Set Definitions: Standardized definitions provided in XML format, these facilitate extensibility in the schema.

Data Exchange Mechanisms: The primary format for exchanging IFC data is the Step Physical File Format, a clear-text encoding of entity instances.

Model View Definitions (MVDs): IFC includes three levels of implementation: Reference View, Alignment Based Reference View, and Design Transfer View. These MVDs add advanced features to IFC implementations​.

Compatibility: IFC focuses on both backward and forward compatibility, ensuring that files written in previous versions are readable in newer versions and vice versa. This compatibility is particularly crucial for the long-term viability of BIM projects.

IFC Features and Standards

IFC introduces several new aspects and changes, including:

Data Schema Architecture: IFC defines four conceptual layers in its schema architecture: Resource, Core, Interoperability, and Domain layers, each serving specific purposes within the BIM process​. The available domains now are: Buildings, Bridges, Roads, and Railways. Tunnels are expected to be included in the next update.

Spaces, Types, and Objects: Each part of the project can be further characterized according to its function. For Roads, the part type now includes lateral, longitudinal, region, or vertical definitions. Above this, model information can be allocated in three groups: as objects, as properties, or relationship definitions.

Annotations: IFC now allows for the inclusion of symbolic representations of elements, that are not part of physical products or structures. Information can now be saved in order to give greater context to the model.

This is just a glance of the whole IFC schema. The development of IFC 4.3 also involves the deprecation and deletion of certain constructs. This evolution is crucial for maintaining the standard’s relevance and efficacy. Deprecated constructs are still supported for backward compatibility but are replaced by more advanced or corrected alternatives. This process ensures that IFC remains up-to-date with the latest technological and industry developments, thus maintaining its utility and effectiveness in the BIM context.

Go to IFC Documentation

The Global Impact of ISO 16739 and IFC 4.3

The approval of IFC 4.3 as the latest version of ISO 16739 standard is a landmark achievement for buildingSMART International and the BIM industry at large. This global recognition underlines the standard’s robustness, quality, and applicability across diverse BIM applications. The international accreditation of IFC 4.3 solidifies its position as a key player in the global BIM landscape, promising more widespread adoption and implementation in the industry.

The introduction of IFC 4.3 has profound implications for the BIM industry. It ensures greater interoperability among various BIM software, facilitating seamless collaboration and data exchange. The focus on backward and forward compatibility makes BIM projects more sustainable and adaptable to future developments. The adaptability of IFC 4.3, demonstrated by its ability to evolve with the industry’s needs, ensures its continued relevance. Lastly, as a globally standardized framework, it fosters consistency and reliability in BIM processes across the world.

IFC 4.3, now the latest version of the ISO 16739 standard, marks a significant step forward in the standardization and evolution of BIM processes. Its comprehensive framework, focusing on interoperability, compatibility, adaptability, and global standardization, is poised to significantly influence the future of building and infrastructure development. The industry’s commitment to embracing and implementing these standards is crucial for harnessing their full potential in shaping the future of BIM.

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