IFC 4.3 – A Major Milestone Introduction and Overview of the Current Status

By Richard Petrie, written in March 2022.

Earlier this year buildingSMART International sent the full IFC 4.3 final Production Standard to ISO to initiate the process of elevating the standard to become a formal ISO, and, in parallel, a CEN standard. This is a very important and significant milestone. It represents the conclusion of at least 7 years of concentrated project work and multiple projects across our community. This blog is one of a series to mark and explain this achievement, its significance, and the opportunities it presents.

I am immensely proud of this delivery and what it means for the built asset industry, openBIM® and open digital ways of working worldwide. It has been achieved with worldwide support from clients, especially government and infrastructure clients, AEC industry participant of all types and with close involvement and support from software vendors.

IFC Rail Stakeholders

IFC Rail Stakeholder

Bridges, Roads, Ports and Waterways Stakeholders

Other Stakeholders

Strong client leadership has been essential in providing the drive and prioritising scope and content. A series of projects in the later phases dedicated to validating the standard with vendors means that this is the best tested IFC version ever issued.

Domain experts have led and managed much of the work through our ‘Rooms’. During the development of the work, we have been able to deploy elements of our Technical Roadmap. It is a sign of maturity that we can now run both domain and technical discussions in parallel. The work is now supported in modern, accessible, and transparent tools enabling much broader community engagement and publishing in client-friendly formats as well as a range of technical formats. This for me shows both the health and professionalism of our community and is exciting in terms of the opportunities it opens up for our work.

The conclusion of this standard does not mean that the work is finished – additional domain content is planned for IFC 4.4 and we are working on MVDs for IFC 4.3 which will be published separately. There will always be ongoing work, but the IFC 4.3 scope is finished; it is time to move ahead with implementation and put the standard into use. Formalization with ISO is a key step on that journey, and I am pleased we have now embarked on it.

How we got there

by Richard Kelly, May 2022.

The IFC 4.3 program was established to extend the IFC benefits to what can be termed horizontal assets. That is, infrastructure that stretches across the landscape such as roads and railways and all their associated features. The full scope of the IFC 4.3 program included Road, Railway, Ports & Waterways, Bridge, and the common elements between all these. Each of the domains has many different use cases that they wish to support with the IFC schema.

The first phase of the projects within the program concluded in 2019 and they defined the IFC entities for use cases including alignment reference, aggregate structures, earthworks, bridge structural, rail power, rail signalling, rail track, rail telecoms, drainage, maritime elements, and some geotechnics.

The second phase of these projects was to produce test instructions and deliver software validation of the IFC 4.3 standard. This required storylines to be defined that were then validated. In addition, property set definitions were made to input into the buildingSMART Data Dictionary which forms part of the standard. This phase has also included the definition of the three base MVDs; namely the Reference View, the
Alignment Based Reference View and the Design Transfer View

[The delivery of the IFC 4.3 program required several new processes to be created that were new to bSI, such as the whole software validation package. This included methodologies, work performance measurement and communication channels.]

The delivery of IFC 4.3 was done through the collaboration between the Infra Room and the Railway Room and the program management governance enabled the coordination of several projects within and between those Rooms. The work packages each of the projects were delivering were varied and complex therefore a robust regime had to be established.

This image illustrates how the Railway Room coordinated the various work packages from the Project Management Office.

The IFC Rail Phase 2 Project Teams

The bSI Process is the governance definition that enables people to collaborate effectively to produce good quality outcomes with pace and rigour. The personnel working on the projects are a mixture of pro-bono and contractor with many different companies and countries represented.

As well as establishing a governance process for the Room Project activities, the bSI Process determines the hierarchy of authorisation for IFC Standard. The Standards Committee Technical Executive establishes the scope of each IFC release, and the central technical services team receives the project outputs and update them into the schema along with all the established entities relating to buildings and other legacy items.

The bSI Process was enhanced as a response to the work being undertaken and continues to be improved.

This major piece of work is the result of several years commitment and dedication to not only enhancing international standards for domain specific requirements, but the teams also delivered real harmonization across infrastructure areas and extends the influence of openBIM beyond buildings. The professionalism and dedication of the multiple teams that have delivered this program is to be applauded and their work is the start of significant momentum for other infrastructure domains as they have paved the way on how to extend and deliver. This standard will be highly usable due to the huge engagement and overall consensus. We’re sure this will be celebrated and acknowledged globally.