What is IFC? What Are IFC Viewers?
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is one of the most innovative and promising technologies in the construction industry. BIM can be defined as a system that contains all the information about the planning, design, implementation and maintenance processes of a building, briefly, the life cycle of the building.
The design and construction phase of the building includes many technical roles, each operating in their own field, which clearly demonstrates the importance of collaborating effectively in the realization and management of a project. Therefore, the need for a multidisciplinary data model exchange has emerged. The IFC format was created, which allows data to be exchanged securely without engendering errors and loss of information.
What is IFC?
IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) is a file format developed by BuildingSMART¨ that allows people using different BIM software to collaborate on the same project. For example, the IFC format is used so that a model created in Revit can be opened properly in other BIM programs.
At the same time, IFC is a BIM data standard that contains definitions of the data required for building and infrastructure projects throughout their life cycles. IFC aims to describe the components of a building such as plant, spaces, furniture, structural elements (columns, beams, walls, floors, etc.), including the specific features of each object.
Three different IFC formats are available;
- • .ifc: default file format based on ISO-STEP standard
- • .ifcxml: File format based on XML structure
- • .ifczip: A compressed archive of one of the above formats, including additional material such as PDFs or images
There are also two different versions of IFC currently in use; IFC2x3 and IFC4. The latest version is IFC4, but IFC2x3 is the most widely used today and will probably be used for a while longer. This is largely because many ongoing projects have to use IFC2x3, and developing new versions often takes time. Therefore, a certain amount of time is needed before the new version can be used on a large scale.
What is an IFC Viewer?
Models imported in the IFC format can be viewed easily in an IFC viewer or on IFC platforms. These IFC viewers, which you can download free of charge to your computer, allow you to open and view models comfortably without the need for BIM programs that require professional knowledge and are highly licensed. Each viewer has its own unique features. However, there are some features that are standard on all of them. For example, they all allow you to easily see the 3D model, navigate through it, toggle elements on and off, search for the elements you want, and open and overlap different models. Since these programs are viewers, they do not allow modifications to the model, but they usually have the capacity to read data about the model, depending on the quality of the viewer.
Below you can find a list of IFC viewers.
viewer+: This program, also approved by BuildingSMART¨, is a free software tool for managing your IFC files. You can view, edit, convert and share IFC models with this single tool.
BIMvision: Developed by Datacomp, BIMvision is a specialized IFC viewer which offers viewing options that are not usually available in standard IFC viewer software. There is also a paid version that includes all Datacomp plugins.
Solibri: Solibri is a free CAD viewer and offers options to open and view IFC files. It has various display modes such as Pan, Rotate (around a point), Walk and Game. Of those four viewing modes, Game mode is one of the best features among these listed IFC viewers. It allows you to view and navigate a 3D model as you would when playing a First Person game. There are also paid versions available, Solibri Office and Solibri Site.
Trimble Connect: Trimble Connect is designed to easily upload and share documents, drawings and 3D model information. In addition to these features, it can be used as an IFC viewer. There are also two different paid versions, Business and Business Premium.
Areddo: Areddo is a lightweight IFC viewer for Windows, with which you can open multiple CAD files at the same time. It allows you to open IFC files and have a detailed overview of them.
DDScad Viewer: Developed by Graphisoft, DDScad is a free 3D CAD viewer with which you can open IFC files. It offers a set of tools for viewing IFC files in full. When viewing an IFC file, you can view it as wireframe, create shadow sections, view the model in walking mode/flight mode/elevator mode.
BIMcollab ZOOM: BIMcollab ZOOM is the best tool for reviewing design and discussing topics in meetings. ZOOM also helps analyze data to find design flaws and validate solutions.
In addition to these downloadable programs, if you require common access to the project for your architects and engineers at the same time, your 3D model can be uploaded to online BIM platforms where you can open the IFC format. You can access these platforms in our ”BIM platforms” article.