In a recent blog post, we looked at why we should care about IFC. Now we will look at one way to use IFC. Don’t panic, this is not going to get overly technical. I won’t get into naming conventions or how your project is doomed if you don’t use the correct IFC classification (don’t worry, odds are it won’t be doomed). If you really want to get technical, click here. This is what we will cover:

  • Developing schedules that use IFC parameters
  • Information that should and shouldn’t come from IFC parameters
  • Adding IFC parameters to your model elements
  • Using Favorites to speed up the process for future projects

The I in Schedules stands for IFC

01 original scheduleSetting up schedules to read IFC data is straightforward. Start with an existing schedule from your template. In this example we will use the default Window Schedule from the ARCHICAD 19 Residential Template. All we need to do is find an IFC parameter and add it to the schedule. Click on the Scheme Settings (top right corner in the image above) and then in the new dialog box that opens, click on the Add… drop down button in the lower left hand corner. Select Add IFC Properties.

  02 Add IFC Properties In the new dialog box that opens track down, select the IFC Properties you schedule needs, and then click add. As an example, I will add manufacturer specific fields for Manufacturer and Model Number. Make sure the List IFC Properties and IFC Type are directed at the correct element/object type (so that you are selecting parameters that will be available for your elements), in this case a window (see the top of the image below).03 Select IFC PropertiesAfter you close the Scheme Settings, the columns in the schedule can be renamed for clear documentation. Here I have also added a unifying header for these new columns. To do this, hold down the shift key and select the two header cells with the cursor. Then click on the Header Options button (top of image below) and select “Insert header cell above”.04 Schedule with IFC FieldsWhen first dabbling with IFC parameter based schedules, avoid creating new IFC parameters. Work with the defaults and see what you can do. This will get you accustomed to IFC parameters, teach you what’s available OOTB, and help you avoid creating unnecessary duplicates (for instance there’s already parameters for manufacturer data, so don’t add additional parameters that replicate these). While I don’t want you to religiously adhere to external standards that don’t apply to your project type, working with the existing data structure provided makes sense. Also if you aren’t creating new IFC parameters as part of this first step, you’ll be more likely to use IFC parameters in your schedules. It’s easier to use what’s there than create new.

As you explore the available OOTB parameters, it’s also important to know what sort of information you shouldn’t be searching for in the default IFC parameters. Some information should come from element or global settings rather than IFC parameters, including:

  • Home story
  • Quantity
  • Zone/room name
  • Size/dimensions

This data can be added through IFC but requires more work to update and coordinate.

BONUS TIP: You can use IFC parameters as Schedule Criteria (which defines what data shows up in the schedule to begin with). For instance you could create your window schedule to show all ifcWindows rather than ARCHICAD Windows. That’s a subtle difference, but if you are paying attention to IFC Type, then you’ll have greater control of what is or isn’t in your schedules (no more having to exclude/include via ID). This helps refine the schedule to include only the information you want. If you use IFC Type then you can easily schedule all the elements you want, regardless of the Tool used (more on that another day). A word of caution on Schedule Criteria: the simpler they are, the easier it will be to adjust and manage the schedule. In our ifcWindow vs ARCHICAD Window example, scheduling by IFC Type is more powerful and flexible, but scheduling by ARCHICAD Window tool instead is a bit more idiot proof. So in all honesty, setting up your Schedule Criteria by IFC Type (or other IFC parameters) is probably best delayed until you’ve mastered the basics of using IFC parameters as schedule fields.Schedule Criteria simple IFC

The I in Element Parameters stands for IFC

Once you are comfortable adding IFC Parameters in a schedule, the next step is to make sure the IFC parameters in your schedules are turned on for the elements going to be scheduled. This is even simpler than creating the schedule. Select the elements that will be included in the schedule (from whatever Window makes the most sense: Plan, 3D, another schedule, etc). Open the Selection Settings and go to the Tags and Categories section. Click the Manage IFC Properties button.Manage IFC PropertiesFrom here all you need to do is hunt down the IFC parameters that were included in the schedule. Add these into the element settings by checking the boxes and you are ready to schedule! Don’t worry about adding the data to these parameters just yet. That can be done via your schedule, collectively by selecting multiple elements, or individually as required.06 Manage IFC Pt2

Now when we look at the schedule again, we get a full list of information for the windows that have been placed that meet the schedule’s criteria.07 Final ScheduleBONUS TIP: Some information in the tags and categories section may not be essential for your schedule, but will vastly improve your model if time is taken to apply correct settings. For example, structural function, location and IFC classification are not often included in schedules. However, if coordination and collaboration through IFC may be part of your workflow, correct settings here are critical. These settings can also be used to refine schedule criteria (ei only show interior or exterior doors…). I highly recommend paying attention to sturctural function, location, and IFC classification. It’s a great way to further demystify IFC.

The I in favorites stands for IFC

All this may have taken a little effort to get set up, but ultimately it will improve the quality and flexibility of your schedules. To speed up scheduling, you will need to embed this workflow into your template. That means two things. First, getting IFC data in your template schedules. Second, develop a Favorites list that incorporates IFC data.

My recommendation is to start small; your Favorites list doesn’t have to be exhaustive, especially if you have not used Favorites before. You will not need to save a Favorite for every element or object, just for each element or object type. For example, a single window with the  proper IFC parameters turned on (and partially filled in?) and other default template attributes is sufficient. This can then be injected into any other window in the library, and all IFC information will be transferred (as always I can’t stress enough the importance of Parameter Transfer). The same concept of one Favorite (to start) per thing can be applied to appliances, plumbing fixtures, furniture or anything else that will be scheduled. For more on IFC and Favorites, check out this article by Rob Jackson.

The I in Important stands for IFC

Why should you switch your schedules to IFC parameters? Why is all of this important? There are plenty of reasons to use IFC (as we’ve already covered), and much of it can be condensed down to the concept of structured data. This is why we talked about setting up parameters in the schedules before the elements. We began with the display and output, with what we wanted to share, then looked at including that data into our elements. We started with a global view, then went local.

But now is not really the time to stress about why. That’ll just freak you out as you worry about doing IFC correctly. Conquering IFC is a long process and it’s a challenge similar to that of going from CAD to BIM. It’s okay to do it semi-correctly for a few projects while you learn.

Right now you should be switching over your data. This is a CAD to BIM moment. First match what you did before. Just focus on what you see in your schedule. Convert the schedule fields to IFC parameters. Replace the random GDL parameters that you’ve been using for years, parameters that are inconsistent across elements and Objects, with IFC parameters that can be uniformly applied to all 3D elements. After you update your processes, everything discussed above will be easy and assumed. Once that is accomplished, then you can focus on what comes next. When you adopt IFC data, you are unifying how information is contained in your file. Once you have uniformity (ordered complexity), then you can think about what additional value that adds. About what happens when your data can go to other programs seamlessly. When you can schedule a list of every manufacturer used in your building in the same schedule. When you can check fire ratings across element type. When your model understands what is interior and exterior. When your model can distinguish between load-bearing and not. When your designs are underpinned by robust organizational logic.

But that’s for another day. First match, then exceed.

Bonus Reading:

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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