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Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data model

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The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data model developed by buildingSMART is an open, international and standardized specification for Building Information Modelling (BIM) data that is exchanged and shared among software applications used by the various participants in a building, construction or facilities management project.

The buildingSMART data model

At buildingSMART, we have developed a common data schema that makes it possible to hold and exchange data between different proprietary software applications. The data schema comprises information covering the many disciplines that contribute to a building project throughout its lifecycle: from conception, through design, construction and operation to refurbishment or demolition.

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are the main buildingSMART data model standard. The IFC format is registered by ISO as ISO/PAS 16739 and is in the process of becoming an official International Standard ISO/IS 16739.

IFC - the international open standard for BIM

‘Open’ is the key to the real value of our buildingSMART standard. IFC can be used to exchange and share BIM data between applications developed by different software vendors without the software having to support numerous native formats. As an open format, IFC does not belong to a single software vendor; it is neutral and independent of a particular vendor’s plans for software development.

For this reason, we say that our organisation – buildingSMART – is ‘the home of open BIM’.


The latest version of the buildingSMART data model - IFC4 - was released in March 2013. It incorporates several extensions of IFC in building, building service and structural areas; enhancements of geometry and other resource components; numerous quality improvements; fully integrated simple ifcXML specification; and a new documentation format.

Every implementation of an IFC exchange should follow what is known as an ‘exchange requirement’. This requirement specifies the information that needs to be present in an exchange or sharing of data at a certain stage in a project. It is important to be specific about the information needed. The exchange requirement prevents woolliness and uncertainty.