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ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 133 - 11/11/2011

Database of IFC-Compatible Software Applications Unveiled

BuildingSMART has unveiled a database of software applications that are compatible with the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standard, a move designed to provide an official reference resource for architecture, engineering, and construction industry software users. The database, posted on the organization’s website, lists more than 100 applications and will be updated.

 

The database resulted from the efforts of Jeffrey Ouellette, a BIM specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks Inc. and deputy chair of buildingSMART’s Implementation Support Group (ISG), who was trying to identify the extent of IFC implementation for internal development research and the education of Vectorworks users. He had expected to find about a dozen resources through ISG and other development efforts in which Nemetschek Vectorworks had participated, but the reality he uncovered was very different: he identified 50 applications by 37 vendors in his initial research efforts.

 

Thomas Liebich, leader of buildingSMART’s Model Support Group, and ISG Chairperson Rasso Steinmann saw the potential for an official buildingSMART resource in Ouellette’s list of vendors and products, and efforts continued to develop the work. With the help of other buildingSMART sources, the spreadsheet used at the start was converted to an online database and more applications and vendors were added, as well as expanding the number of fields and types of data.

 

The database is designed to serve as a dynamic tool and be continually updated as more products with IFC compatibility emerge. The resource offers definitive information about the extent of IFC adoption for software end users, such as architects, engineers, and facility managers, according to buildingSMART.

A new certification program run by buildingSMART to check that vendor products meet the IFC standard was launched in 2010 with more stringent requirements.

 

“The new scheme clarifies the scope of interoperability in the products submitted,” Steinmann said. “The significant uptake of the scheme shows how companies are striving to achieve a high level of quality and are eager to demonstrate it via certification.”

The launch of the database marks the end of a 16-month journey for Ouellette, who said, “Architecture, and the building industry in general, is bigger than any one technology, product, or vendor. IFC provides a method of digital interoperability, and the new database will help promote the use of IFC-compliant software, allowing everyone to collaborate with the tools and processes they find most useful.”

BuildingSMART Officials Provide Additional Details toCPC/BIM

In an email interview with Construction Project Controls and BIM Report, buildingSMART Webmaster Kjetil Espedokken, Liebich, and Ouellette provided the following additional details.

 

CPC/BIM: Since the database went live, approximately how many times has it been accessed? Is this figure more or less than the number of visits that were expected during the first month?

 

Espedokken: The first month we had approximately 3,300 hits on the implementation database as the entry URL. This month we have had an additional 500 unique hits. However, the number of requests against the implementation database has gone up this last month (it is about 150 percent of the numbers from October), suggesting that the people using it are doing more searches against the database. Total visits to the site has been steadily increasing the last year and is now at around 850 a day (or approximately 25,000 a month). Launching the database does not seem to have increased the total number of visits, but the implementation database is now the most visited part of the site since it launched.

 

CPC/BIM: Approximately how many software applications are listed in the database? About how many more applications, if any, are expected to be added and by when?

 

Liebich: By [Nov. 8], there were 139 applications listed; six more since the database went online. We expect several more to come. My guess is in the range of 20-50.

 

Ouellette: Thomas is correct. 139 applications by 95 developers/vendors. Most are commercial, stand-alone applications, some open source apps/utilities, and a few are plug-ins/add-ons to existing applications, extending their functionality to include IFC support. It will be interesting to see how it may expand in the future as the word spreads.

 

CPC/BIM: In your own words, why is it important for the applications to be IFC-compatible?

 

Liebich: Building information modeling is all about creating, sharing, and reusing information over the life cycle of buildings. Therefore, open access to that information is crucial. It cannot be locked into proprietary databases of BIM tool vendors. The only truly open and international standard supporting open sharing of BIM data is IFC. Supporting IFC is therefore a crucial functionality of software application to enable users during the life cycle (design, construct, maintain) to freely access their information. I would draw the analogy to the web, where users (creators and consumers) can share information in neutral format (HTML, XML+XLST) within a variety (and independent of) tools of their choice.

 

CPC/BIM: Besides the database, what else is being done and should be done to promote the use of IFC-compatible applications around the world?

 

Liebich: [There should be a] very enhanced new certification process to improve quality (see http://buildingsmart-tech.org/certification [for] a list of software companies participating in buildingSMART certification. [There are] 21 applications today. Also see http://buildingsmart-tech.org/certification/ifc-certification-2.0/ifc2x3-cv-v2.0-certification/participants).

 

Ouellette: Many public entities, such as the U.S. General Services Administration, Norwegian Statsbygg, and Finnish Senaatti, already specify the use of IFC format files for project deliverables for public projects. In turn, services providers such as architects, engineers, and general contractors are making the effort to learn and use IFC-compatible applications. These public entities are currently providing the biggest push toward implementing open standards, like IFC, in the industry and marketplace.

 

CPC/BIM: What is the current status of ISO 16739? When may it be finalized?

 

Liebich: ISO16739 is currently under submission of the draft international standard stage. It is expected that the full international standard stage [will be] achieved [next summer], according to the official ISO timeline.

 

Liebich additionally told CPC/BIM that he hopes all public clients will make IFC format compulsory. He further reported that the U.S., Denmark, Finland, and Norway currently require IFC format for public projects and that the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Singapore, Korea, Mexico, Iceland, and Estonia have announced plans to require IFC format for public projects.

 

The database is available at http://buildingsmart-tech.org/implementation/implementations.

 

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