Are you collaborating with engineers who are using Revit? Are you exchanging data via IFC rather than dumbing everything down to DWGs? Is that process going as well as you’d like? Are you and your consultants aware of Graphisoft’s continued effort to develop Add-Ins for Revit to improve its IFC capabilities? Perhaps you remember when I wrote about this topic slightly more than two years ago. Rather than rehash what I said in that previous post, let’s start with some information from the download page you’ll be sending your engineers to:

ArchiCAD Connection Add-In for Autodesk Revit applications

The GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD Connection is a free Add-In for Autodesk Revit softwares (including Revit Structure, Revit MEP and Revit Architecture). The Add-In improves the IFC model-based and bi-directional data exchange between GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD and Autodesk Revit applications.


About

The GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD Connection Add-In has two functions:

  • “Improved IFC Import” imports IFC models to Revit using extra features that improve the interpretation of architectural models
  • “Export to ArchiCAD” exports Revit model elements in IFC files that are specially enhanced for use in GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD.

For detailed information, see manual.


New in ArchiCAD Connection for Revit 2015 Add-In

The ArchiCAD Connection Add-In developed for Revit 2015 offers extra, optional functions to customize the IFC import/export settings of Revit:

  • Import of all Attributes, Properties and Classification Reference data of the IFC model elements as schedulable Revit parameters
  • Export of elements based on Revit’s phase status
  • Export of 2D annotation elements
  • Export of element parts as standalone building elements
  • Schedule data export as IFC properties
  • Export of Family and Type name as Reference property
  • Both import and export support the compressed IFC format (IfcZIP) in addition to the normal IFC file format

Important: For best results, make sure you have installed the latest version of Autodesk®’s IFC 2015 import-export app for Revit.


Getting the most out of IFC (and Revit)

The Add-In is going to make data exchange easier, and more robust, but IFC collaboration takes effort. It’s not just as simple as Save As. Well it can be. But first it takes time and communication. Communication is key. In the old days one could just say “send me a DWG”; my advice for that has always been just use the default translator. If the person on the other end has an issue, they’ll let you know. You can then make a quick tweak and send again (side note: the Publisher is your friend with all things Export, whether DWG, IFC, PDF, or whatever). With DWGs there was almost never an issue, well one that was discussed at least. Sending DWGs was (and is) pretty simple and mindless. You know everything is getting dumbed down. You know everything is getting exploded. You know line weights and colors are going to look different on a black screen. But that’s the scope of the worries: graphics (yes I’m being a bit simplistic in this view). It seems though that the overarching experience with DWG exchange is that you get files that look a little different than you’re used to and everyone blames the other person. Everyone blames the creator of the content for not knowing enough about what they are doing (the fault is at creation, not export). Good communication isn’t completely necessary to make things work okay, so this misconception is rarely resolved.

IFC data exchange requires good communication (I can’t stress this enough) and thus also has a different fall guy. It’s not the person creating the IFC file’s fault. It’s the program. IFC and software are blamed rather than a user’s lack of expertise. This is understandable because no one wants to admit that the reason the translated model doesn’t look right is because they didn’t do their due diligence. No one wants to be blamed. No one wants to be forced to do MORE work. I think why this isn’t an issue with 2D collaboration is because with 2D data you can hobble along and make do—you vent your frustration to your coworker but don’t need to ask for something more. A goofy file with some extra lines or missing hatches is still serviceable. IFC exchange is a little different; if an IFC model doesn’t translate correctly, it might be useless. And if it’s useless, then people need to do more work—or ask someone else to do more. But that’s also the same with any 3D file exchange these days. Of course I hope it’s obvious that the problem here isn’t the program or the file type, but all of us continuing the lazy behavior that we got away with when data exchange was 2D and idiot proof.

Understanding that the stakes are higher with more advanced collaboration will help your team take the process of setting up IFC exchange more seriously. Successful IFC collaboration requires both the sender and receiver to optimize their software and TALK. The first few times you exchange IFC models you’ll want to run some tests, you’ll want to do some research, you’ll want to find the problems. And yes this means either building this time into the project’s fee or doing some unbillable work. This effort will easily pay for itself though through continued ease of use in the future with both your current and future collaborators.

How to start the Conversation

Spending time conquering IFC collaboration will take effort. And it will feel daunting at first. So here are the first few steps you need to take.

  • Have your engineers read this post and DOWNLOAD the IFC Add-In for Revit 2015. If they aren’t using Revit 2015, there are links to older versions of the Add-In.
  • Set goals for what you want to accomplish with IFC collaboration. Don’t try to do everything at once. Start with the basics: geometry and a successful back and forth of data.
  • Have both you and your engineers download Solibri Model Checker from www.myarchicad.com so you have a third party IFC viewer to check the model in. It’s free and duel platform.
  • Dedicate some time to run trials. See if you can do it while sitting next to each other. One of the many advantages of ArchiCAD is that you can easily run it off a laptop while sitting in your engineer’s office.
  • Read, read, read, read.

 Further Reading

  1. More about Interoperability Add-ins for Revit (from an earlier post I wrote on this topic).
  2. What was once the most often asked question about Collaboration (I’m so pleased to see that the major questions are now about IFC coordination and not DWGs).
  3. Interoperability references from Bond Bryan BIM Blog.
  4. Coordination with Engineers article on the Help Center.
  5. IFC Based Data Exchange Troubleshooting on the Help Center.
  6. ArchiCAD 18 Collaboration Guide on the Help Center.
  7. Data Exchange and Information Sharing Subforum (on the ArchiCAD-talk Forum, of course!).

BONUS VIDEO!!!

One last thing. Below is a video that was done showing the workflow between ArchiCAD 14 and the then current version of Revit Structure with the Add-In. Things have obviously evolved since this video was made, but it’s worthwhile watching as part of your research and preparation. Enjoy.

I’d love to hear about everyone’s experiences in the comments. How have you tackled IFC collaboration? Have you just winged it? Or have you spent time with your engineers solving the issues when neither of you are under a tight deadline? I think it’d be awesome to do some interview style follow up posts. What do you say?

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4 Comments

  1. Nathan Hildebrandt

    Jared,

    The biggest challenge I face is the guys at the other end say it is easier when we deal with a Revit Architect. I plan to spend some time on this over the coming months to remove these myths from their minds. Maybe it wasn’t the software that was the problem maybe the process of exchange timings were out. All good times ahead though.

    Nathan

    Reply
  2. Patrick May

    Nathan,
    It is a shame that people can still let software dictate or impede a good process or good communication. I agree and hear it frequently as well. The worst part is GS has done so much to improve Revit and its communication in exchanging information.
    I could see how the process may seem easier to save an RVT file to share back and forth; but if everything is set up properly and the AC plug-in is used in Revit it should be as seamless.
    Even in a non-cross platform relationship I have not worked with anyone willing to open their model up to teamwork sharing between architect and engineer, so the solution needs to be files sent back and forth.
    I am working on a few jobs where we are taking the first steps in sharing between Revit and ArchiCAD via IFC. It will be interesting how they work out and how our workflow will adapt or change in the coming weeks.

    Reply
  3. Francois

    Yes Nathan & Patrick, we get the same feedback / unwillingness / fear from Revit users in South Africa 🙁 when it comes to collaboration and coordination vir BIM.

    I did however get a few opportunities where the Architect (our ArchiCAD clients) had to collaborate with MEP end Structural Engineers using the relevant Revit.

    When they ran into inconsistent and/or unsuccessful transfers the Architect contacted us (their ArchiCAD SSA Solution Center) for assistance. We did manage to streamline and align the file transfers for better data quality and more predictable outcomes. Both sides ended up being able of more productive workflows with less errors and guesswork.

    The only thing was that we had to get both parties to agree on spending some dedicated time (under 2days) together and agree on the goal for this joint workflow. Then we spent the rest of the time exporting the ArchiCAD model to IFC > importing it into Revit > again > and again. Each time we noted the export and import settings on each side. We looked at what was erroneous in the imported side, relayed that to the current or changes in export and/or import setting. NB! in the beginning we only made changes in the settings on one side at a time. Also important was to only working in one direction of transfer until we achieved the best possible outcome from the latest configuration.

    Yes this was as tedious and tiring as it sound, but it was for a short period only. Soon enough patterns appear and we ended up with a “sweet spot” in both import and export settings which we could save as profiles that they could lust load when exporting/importing. From this point no there was no thinking, wondering, frustration and repeat attempts to “get it right” 🙂 It just worked 🙂 :). Everybody know what to expect, what the limitations were and how to take it from there.

    We dubbed it “controlled damage” 🙂 because with ArchiCAD 16 and Revit 2012 then we were faced with some realities mainly being:
    > When we open the IFC from ArchiCAD 16 in Solibri model viewer, we saw everything looked like it did in ArchiCAD: sweet 🙂
    > Now the same IFC file in Revit showed a few flaws, like:
    >> A double door plan symbol will show as a big single swing door in Revit while the 3D model view showed the double door just fine.
    >> The site meshes ends up re-located a considerable distance from the building model
    >> and some issues with the Zones body not being visible anywhere but “find&select” does report them present as also does the stamp info that does display

    The conclusion was (in this case) that the Architect now knew that they had to always send DWG plans along with the IFC model to this MEP Engineer. The Engineer knew he had to include a double door plan symbol family in his template by default so that he could switch the erroneous plan symbol out for the correct one as guided by the DWG underlay. etc. etc.

    Exports became consistent, imports became predictable and everybody gained way more than 2 days over the life of the design and documentation phases. High gain for a low investment.

    (PS: this could almost be a post already :))

    Reply
    • Jared Banks

      Francois, thanks for this comment. It’s a great companion to what is written above!

      Reply

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