IFC Introduction

Strategic description

buildingSMART’s purpose is to allow the sharing of information throughout the lifecycle of any built environment asset, between all the participants, regardless of which software application they are using. The machine readable, good quality data should be available for use throughout the design, procurement, construction, maintenance and operation phases.

For each asset the intention is that two versions will exist – the real and the digital. The digital model will be relevant throughout the lifecycle and the legacy data will not become obsolete and un-usable.

buildingSMART’s technical core is based around a common data schema (model) called IFC that makes it possible to hold and exchange relevant data between different software applications.

The IFC is one of  five types of open standard in the buildingSMART portfolio, each of which exists to perform different functions in the delivery and support of assets in the built environment.

Each buildingSMART International Standard will be translated into an ISO and CEN standard.


The five basic standards and their ISO number, where applicable, are;

IFC Industry Foundation Classes ISO 16739

The basic ‘operating system’ that transports the information and the data.

IFD International Framework for Dictionaries ISO 12006-3

Includes the bSDD buildingSMART Data Dictionary. Collects the terms, vocabulary and attributes for things

IDM Information Delivery Manual ISO 29481-1 ISO 29481-2

Looks at individual processes and maps them to understand what should be flowing and when

MVD Model View Definition

The ‘apps’ that run on the IFC. Translates the processes into technical requirements.  There is now an electronic MVD so that software vendors can support any number of MVDs

BCF BIM Collaboration Format

Provides the ability for change management through issue tracking and allows a fully managed cycle.
The full list of buildingSMART published standards is here: Standards Library

Note that the IFC4 addendum 1 is more up to date than the published ISO standard at the moment.

FAQs Frequently Asked Questions about IFC

buildingSMART Phone analogy

It is helpful to illustrate the buildingSMART model by way of a smart phone analogy.

Apps are tools developed for a particular operating system. But they won’t work on a phone running a different operating system.


At buildingSMART we’re creating open data standards. We’re developing our solutions with an ‘operating system’ and ‘apps’.

Our operating system is the Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), and our apps are the Model View Definitions (MVDs). The system and apps work internationally and universally by accessing our data dictionary (bSDD), which manages language translations. Unlike a smartphone, where an Android app won’t run on an Apple phone, the idea is that the IFCs are platform-neutral and can all access the same multilingual dictionary. This means they can share digital information easily.

They govern the rules and guidelines that allow anyone to create apps and products that will work on any device. Use the IFCs to define your software or products, and you ensure compatibility with all other compatible systems and BIM models.

Video & media explanation of openBIM tools

Video What is openBIM?

buildingSMART Data Dictionary

Video BIM Collaboration Format

Presentation What is IFD?

Presentation BIM & BCF

Published Standards and IFC Technical Detail

Please see the links below for the technical details of IFC and associated standards.

Standards library including published IFC Standards

IFC Technical Description overview

IFC4 Addendum 1

Technical IFC4 page

BCF XML Github

BCF API Github

Open Standards – the basics