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IFC-Based Data Exchange

GRAPHISOFT has played an active role within the IAI (International Alliance for Interoperability, BuildingSMART) organization since 1996 and supports the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) standard, which enables ArchiCAD to communicate with other disciplines within the context of the building model, and to coordinate a building project entirely in 3D.

See also: Interoperability Downloads

What is IFC and MVD?

The IFC file format is ISO-certified and developed by the IAI (BuildingSMART). IFC is the only open and standard 3D object-oriented exchange format used by BIM (Building Information Modeling). IFC is available free to all software vendors.

IFC provides 3D geometry representation for all project elements and stores standard and custom data about each element, such as materials, profiles, and functions. Applications used by the different disciplines can easily and quickly filter and identify the relevant, discipline-specific information from the IFC database.

The Coordination View was the first Model View Definition (MVD) developed by buildingSMART International and is currently the most widely implemented view of the IFC scheme. The main purpose of the Coordination View is to allow sharing of building information models among the disciplines of architecture, structural engineering, and building services (mechanical). It contains definitions of spatial structure, building, and building service elements that are needed for coordinating design information among these disciplines. The IFC2x3 Coordination View is the built-in and default standard supported by ArchiCAD.

The Coordination View (Surface Geometry) is a simplified publishing format (i.e. a subset) of the Coordination View. This format is suitable for viewing (since all IFC viewers support this format), design coordination, clash prevention during design, and clash checking. "Coordination View (Surface Geometry)" means that every element will be exported with its BREP (boundary representation) geometry. This method comes closest to reproducing the real shape of the element, together with its specialized sections, connections and solid operations. (However, the element's parameters are lost, and BREP elements from an imported IFC file are transformed into non-editable elements.)

There are several other Model View Definitions (generally the extended versions of the Coordination view) specified by organizations or development teams outside of buildingSMART International. An example is the “Concept Design BIM 2010” MVD that is supported/required by the General Services Administration (US GSA), Statsbygg (Norway) and Senate Properties (Finland). Another example is the “FM Handover” MVD, which was developed by buildingSMART to exchange facility management information among building models, and which provides input data for COBie2-required documentation. The additional MVDs require programs to provide IFC data above and beyond those of the Coordination View standard - such extra data include Classification Reference, Space Occupant, Actor and specific property sets and properties. ArchiCAD's IFC interface provides the possibility to define, export and import these data types. As a result, users will be able to fulfill for example the GSA-specific classifications according to UniFormat and the various OmniClass classes, etc.

All Model View Definitions can be extended by add-on model view definitions which support additional exchange requirements:

ArchiCAD supports all of these additional data types.

For more information, visit:


Who supports IFC?

With the open IFC platform, ArchiCAD can communicate with a wide range of major and local structural, mechanical and energy analysis applications.

Check the following sites or ask your consultant about the IFC compatibility of any current application:


What information does an IFC model carry?


What does "Reference Concept" mean?

Each discipline is responsible for the creation and development its own model. "Reference model" means that a discipline - for example the structural engineer - uses the architectural model as the initial basis for the structural model. While the structural model will be created as a standalone model, some initial design information will be taken over from the architectural model.

The modeling concepts of the two disciplines differ: for example, the architect designs a two-story column as a single, continuous column element in the architectural design. The structural engineer, on the other hand, cuts two separate structural column members and defines their final structural material and cross-section.

If such differences between the models (and the varying responsibilities of the two disciplines) are to be managed effectively, it is necessary that one discipline's model be locked for editing when viewed in another discipline's environment, yet its elements and data should still be accessible if needed. IFC fulfills this requirement too.

As of ArchiCAD 14, ArchiCAD's IFC user interface has been based on this Reference Model Concept, as well as ease of use. IFC model elements inserted into the architectural model serve as protected reference elements, assigned to layers with different intersection priorities, but all of the associated data can be queried and are accessible. The elements themselves can be added to the architectural model: when you import a model into ArchiCAD using IFC, the imported elements are automatically interpreted as native ArchiCAD elements (ArchiCAD Column, Beam, Slab, Wall, Stair etc.). Thus, if needed, the imported elements can be edited immediately.


What functions does ArchiCAD support with IFC?

ArchiCAD comes with numerous tools and an easy to use interface to support IFC-based collaboration among disciplines. Read the following articles to get more information about ArchiCAD’s IFC-related skills:


The most important features are the followings.


Which methods can I use to import an IFC file into ArchiCAD?


What does "detect IFC model version changes" function mean?

With the so-called "Detect IFC Model Changes" function, ArchiCAD detects the geometric differences between two versions of an IFC model (it compares two IFC files that are two versions of the same project according to the elements' IFC global unique identifiers), and finds the new, deleted and modified elements. The elements affected by the modifications are generated and merged into the currently running project (that project can also be an empty one). Modifications can be viewed and managed using ArchiCAD's Mark-Up tool in both 2D and 3D views.


What IFC versions does ArchiCAD support?

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are the open and neutral data format for openBIM. ArchiCAD supports the import, export and data structure of the latest IFC release: IFC2x Edition 3 (third release of the IFC 2x Platform, IFC2x3 for short).


What are the differences between the different IFC 2x3 formats?


Does Hotlink work with IFC files?

You cannot directly hotlink an IFC file to ArchiCAD. However, if you hotlink a project file that contains data opened or merged from an IFC file, elements' IFC properties will be included in the hotlink, because they are defined as part of the ArchiCAD elements.


How can I check the result of my IFC model export?

After exporting an IFC model, it is good practice to check the IFC model by reopening it in ArchiCAD or opening it in an IFC viewer. There are many free IFC viewers on the market that can be readily downloaded, for example:

Additional information can be found at the following Wiki address: http://www.ifcwiki.org


Where can I read more about IFC and the suggested data exchange workflow with other disciplines?

A dedicated chapter (called Interoperability) of the ArchiCAD Help gives a detailed description of the collaboration-related topics including the suggested and effective workflow between the architects and the structural/MEP/energy analysis engineers, the ArchiCAD features that can be used to prepare a model for later data exchange, as well as the IFC-related concepts, skills and all functions.