Writing in the Architect’s Journal, Joe Croser, a Director with adrem-dcx Ltd and a leading authority on CAD, investigates the emergence of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), as a solution to the current dilemma of enabling the outputs from one CAD system to be used seamlessly as input to another.
He comments on the earlier attempt of the Drawing Interchange Format (DXF) to overcome the difficulties of moving CAD data between different proprietary formats, and acknowledges that the mechanisms inherent in this approach are no longer acceptable. CAD models are also now able to include information over and above mere graphics and this, too, needs to be transferable.
Around a decade ago, the International Alliance of Interoperability (IAI) was formed to tackle the issue of interoperability. Their work resulted in the development of the IFCs (or IFC descriptions). According to Croser, these describe objects rather than the more simple DFX geometry and use a language which is ‘open’ to all.
In the latest version of IFC (version 2x), data can be moved between applications for the following processes:
• structural analysis
• concrete and steel structures
• HVAC design and performance simulation – electrical design
• piped services
• facilities and property management
Three years ago, the Singapore government joined the IAI and have since mandated the use of IFC. While Croser estimates them to be in the lead in the use of this technology, other major players in the IFC game include the U.S. General Services Administration (arguably the largest building owner world-wide) which has recently declared that, from 2006, it will only accept IFC formatted CAD data. Government departments in Norway, Germany and France are also users of IFC, as well as construction companies, designers and clients.
Croser remains reticent about prospects for IFC, but utterly convinced that any solution which opens up the market place and ‘enables CAD users to vote with their feet’ can only be for the good.