Last edited 04 May 2023

Industry Foundation Classes IFC

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a very broad term that describes the process of creating and managing a digital model of a building or other facility (such as a bridge, highway, tunnel and so on).

In the UK, the Government Construction Strategy published in May 2011, stated that the '...Government will require fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016'.

As construction projects typically involve teams coming together from different organisations, they will inevitably use different hardware and software. To facilitate collaboration between team members in creating building information models whilst enabling them to continue to use software that they have invested in and are familiar with, a standard has been developed for the exchange of data.

The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) specification is a neutral, non-proprietary data format used to describe, exchange and share information. It is the international standard for building information modelling used for sharing and exchanging construction and facility management data across different software applications. It has been registered with the International Standardisation Organisation since 2013 as ISO16739 'Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) for data sharing in the construction and facility management industries.'

IFC was first developed in 1994 by the Industry Alliance for Interoperability, a consortium formed by Autodesk. To allow the continued development of IFC as a non-proprietary data format, the consortium became the International Alliance for Interoperability in 1997 and has now become buildingSMART, a not-for-profit organisation.

IFC 1.0 first went into use in 2000. IFC4 was released on 12 March 2013

IFC was developed to facilitate interoperability, but it does not itself guarantee interoperability. This is dependent on the software that interfaces with it. buildingSMART offers a software certification process, and currently IFC is supported by approximately 150 software applications worldwide.

IFC data files are exchanged between applications using the .ifc, .ifcXML and .ifcZIP file formats.

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