There is a common misconception among firms doing small projects that we don’t need much or any Information in our files. By Information, I mean the “I” in BIM, which BIM aficionados love to pontificate about. Let’s consider the traditional view: Information is the non-geometric data and relationships between elements that separate BIM from a mere 3D model.

How much information should our models contain? How much stuff beyond great 3D elements that give us beautiful plans, sections, elevations, and renderings should we be embedding in our files? The answer lies in what we label and schedule. Do we develop door and window schedules and legends? What about plumbing, equipment, lighting, fixture, and trim schedules? These all contain information, that if embedded in the BIM, will eliminate conflicts and tedious manual coordination caused by an outside source.

Understanding what could be our information is but half the challenge. The other question is where does the information live? Some of the information is derived from the properties of the individual elements themselves: dimensions, home story, Layer, etc. Other information can be stored in the elements settings, such as an object’s listing and labeling parameters. But these parameters are not uniform between all element types or even all Objects, so using them offers mixed benefits. Schedules are only effective if all the data within them aligns and with element settings/parameters that only works if all elements in the schedule have the SAME settings (for instance we can’t schedule both column height and beam length in the same schedule column…unless we do this). With the ease of creating custom objects and integrating Sketchup parts into your library, identical settings between all objects is rarely possible. So what is the best scheduling option? The answer is IFC.

This is where many small practices close off. “We don’t need to use IFC”, is the common response. It becomes intimidating, since IFC is often linked to COBie and BIM Standards. Once you start down that path you enter a world of BIM that  generally is dedicated to larger projects with another level of collaboration and coordination. Don’t be deterred! IFC parameters are just as useful for internal organization as they are for external collaboration. Even if I was designing a tree house, my model information would live in IFC.IFC Logo

Whether you are modeling a doll house or a high rise, here is why you should know and use IFC:

  • IFC gives a single uniform control point to collect and list any element’s information throughout the entire model. (Every element that contains Information can contain the same IFC parameters and that data can be accessed in the same ways).
  • It is the only true cross platform format for 3D geometry and information. If you start using IFC parameters, that information can easily appear in BIMx Pro, Solibri Model Viewer, and other applications. Getting the data into those other programs is the first step in teaching both yourself and your team to start looking at the larger landscape of BIM applications and tools.
  • ARCHICAD (and most BIM authoring tools) has enough preset IFC classifications to get you started. You don’t need to create custom Objects just to hold information in the GDL parameters. You just have to use what ARCHICAD provides (until you get more advanced and need more complexity by adding parameters).
  • Building new schedules is easy, since you don’t need to hunt down some obscure, cryptic or buried GDL parameter. Furthermore, a schedule using IFC parameters can be duplicated and easily reworked to list a different set of elements without having to change the schedule fields.
  • IFC parameters will allow a wider ranges of element and object types to be scheduled together without the trouble of blank or “-” schedule fields.
  • Using IFC, even on a basic level before you NEED to use it will make your life easier and happier when you HAVE to use it.
  • Using IFC parameters and exploring IFC is WAY easier than you think. Your work is valuable enough to take advantage of the benefits.

The title of this post is a bit of a joke. But if you do think of the I in BIM as IFC, then you’ll be setting yourself up for success. When you demystify IFC and use it for little things, you’ll be able to leap frog into grander BIM possibilities when the opportunity arises. Up next, we will take a quick look at how to transition schedules from GDL parameters to IFC information. Once you see how easy it is to schedule and add IFC into your workflow, you will never go back!

Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ARCHICAD News in North America (and beyond). What other reasons should we be using IFC parameters? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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