Open BIM: The Next Chapter – New IFC Developments in ArchiCAD 16

The Open BIM movement – initiated by Graphisoft, Tekla and buildingSMART – is making inroads around the world. As part of this movement, GRAPHISOFT has again developed outstanding new technologies for its users who cooperate with other disciplines. This article summarizes ArchiCAD 16’s most important new features that support IFC-based model sharing.

As we know, IFC data are an integral part of the ArchiCAD database and can be accessed, as native attributes and properties, by any ArchiCAD element (building, furnishing, distribution, spatial, etc.) in the Element Settings dialog box. This is true not only for the predefined standard IFC data, but also for any number of user-defined custom properties. By making IFC data into native ArchiCAD data, the program gives the user still more power: he/she can use Find & Select to locate any combination of IFC properties (whether originating in the ArchiCAD project or an imported or merged IFC model), and use them to list elements in the Interactive Element Schedule.

Use Find and Select to locate data, based the elements’ IFC classification, in a structural model inserted into our project. Filter and list the imported data as needed.

Since IFC data are native ArchiCAD properties, they can now be queried through the ODBC (open database connectivity) driver interface (SQL Query) and on the ArchiCAD API interface by 3rd party developers.

ArchiCAD 16 introduces new IFC data types. Their advantage is not only in enriching the data used in IFC model exchange (IFC export), but also that these data types, too, are native to ArchiCAD and can be used by any ArchiCAD element. For example, you can classify Zones or building elements by their function, to conform to particular country-specific standards: the OmniClass and UniFormat standard in the U.S.; the BSAB and AMA standards in Sweden; Uniclass in the U.K.; zone classification by buildingSMART Japan; as well as any custom-defined rule (such as company-specific rules).

Classify ArchiCAD Zones by function (for example, as in this image, using the built-in requirements of the OmniClass standard); then Find & Select the Zones based on their classification, and schedule them as needed.

We have introduced new IFC assignment types as well: Space Occupant and Actor. Use these to assign owner-based, hierarchical groupings of Zones, Stories, building elements or anything else. For example, use these data types to define a Zone’s owner, renter and occupant.

Because multiple models (e.g. structural and MEP) can be inserted, via Merge or Hotlink, into your project, it is crucial to have a clear, filterable and easily manageable overview of the IFC model hierarchy and the entire IFC database. To simplify editing, you can use ArchiCAD 16’s IFC Manager, designed on the WYSIWYG principle, to display and edit the IFC data of just the visible elements (those on a visible layer).

Filter IFC properties so that only the data for the visible, frame structural elements are shown.

Due to local standards or company rules, you may find yourself using identically named custom IFC properties in several projects. In ArchiCAD 16, you can store these custom data in schemes (.xml files), which can be shared among co-workers or used in any subsequent project. Simply assign a custom property to an element type (e.g. Wall type) or to several element types (e.g. building element type), or to all project elements (using IFC Scheme Setup).

ArchiCAD 16 introduces its brand new Morph™ tool, an optimal solution for creating custom structures, custom elements, and custom-designed building interiors. Thanks to the Element and Structural Function Classification (introduced in an earlier version), the Morph element, regardless of its geometry, can be exported to other programs – for example – as a frame structural element. Naturally, such a Morph element can be assigned any number of standard and custom IFC properties (e.g. Fire rating, Acoustic rating), just like any other 3D element created using ArchiCAD tools.

A Morph element, with Element Classification “Member”, in ArchiCAD and in an IFC model viewer (Solibri Model Checker).

As of ArchiCAD 16, when you import an IFC model, its site geometry (or environment topology) can be interpreted as an editable Morph element, as opposed to the uneditable GDL Object created in earlier versions. Use IFC Translation Setup > Import Options > Geometry Conversion.

GRAPHISOFT is committed to ensuring a high quality IFC data exchange. To this end, ArchiCAD is participating in the certification process for the latest IFC 2×3 standard (Coordination View version 2.0), which is granted to the main architectural and other professional software programs that have succeeded, based on strict requirements, in improving their IFC export and import capabilities.

To fulfill the newest requirements, ArchiCAD has implemented many new export and import capabilities. For example, the new engine integrated in ArchiCAD 16 has eliminated the previous file size limitations on model import and export. The same new engine also fully supports Unicode, thus improving the character exchange between softwares using different languages.

We continue to involve a growing number of partner applications in the testing and, where applicable, the improvement of IFC-based model exchange. In addition, we are continually testing, improving and keeping up our collaboration with all the current Revit applications. The new IFC Add-Ins developed for Revit 2013 by GRAPHISOFT are already available.

Indeed, the IFC developers at Graphisoft headquarters are already hard at work on the Open BIM features of the next ArchiCAD version. About those new features: mum’s the word for the time being, but let’s discuss them next year!

About The Author

Ákos Rechtorisz is the Product Manager of IFC Interoperability and Structural Solutions at GRAPHISOFT. Previously, he gained 10 years’ experience as a specialist in structural applications and as instructor at the Department of Structural Mechanics of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

Further information

Graphisoft’s IFC download goodies


This article was published in the 3/2012 issue of ArchiMAG in October 2012. Get your copy of ArchiMAG from App Store!

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