Interoperability testing: IFC 2×3 site geometry exchange

Introduction

In the previous blog post we looked at a case study of our Cleveland Fire Brigade Training and Administration Building. An issue that emerged from this project was to do with how our site geometry was being exchanged into Solibri Model Checker. We quickly found a solution to resolve the issue into Solibri. However, sometimes finding a solution to one problem can result in unexpected results elsewhere.

At the same time as the Cleveland project we have been looking at how we can integrate Landscape Architecture into our ARCHICAD templates and use our site models to integrate useful data both for ourselves and others.

So I decided we needed to do a little more homework on the impact of our proposed solution for Cleveland and try and understand the implications for this and other projects. So with my colleague Matt Higton (BIM Specialist) we used a test file we had previously built (the file was created in GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 17 (the settings are the same for 17 & 18) and all elements are modelled with ARCHICAD’s Mesh tool) and transferred the file into a variety of current software solutions.

We then decided to widen our testing and have also been kindly assisted by the following:

  • Adrien Guillemet (Henry Riley LLP) who tested Exactal CostX [added June 4th 2015]
  • Jon Frost (BWB Consulting) who tested Autodesk A360 [added March 31st 2015] and Autodesk Infraworks 2015
  • Laurent Henin (BALLINIPITT) who tested Nemetschek Allplan 2015 [added March 24th 2015]
  • Léon van Berlo (TNO, Open source BIM collective / bimserver.org, Stumico) who tested IfcOpenShell.org
  • Neil Marshall (BIM.Technologies) who tested Nemetschek Vectorworks 2015
  • Pawel Krecz (Synchro Ltd) who tested Synchro v5.3.1.4 and BIM Vision v2.10 [added August 31st 2016]
  • Robert Klaschka (Studio Klaschka) (and subsequently Shawn Foster (Black & Veatch Corporation)) who tested Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5)
  • Steve Jackson (Tekla) who tested Tekla Structures 21

A massive thank you to all of them for providing a wider picture of file exchange.

A summary is included at the bottom of the post including a list of those that passed the test!

The test

This test is focussed on geometry and colour exchange of Site Geometry elements. Whilst the file does contain some data this is not the purpose of this test.

We should be clear that like previous interoperability tests the aim here is not to prove one software is better than another but to understand and identify the issues of our file transfer into other software. We have always believed that these tests, and ultimately reporting these issues, will help improve the quality of IFC file exchange. Open file exchange is crucial to the future of the industry particularly given the recent UK government announcement around Digital Built Britain BIM Level 3 (see Strategic Plan).

All test results are produced in good faith in order to assist those wanting to exchange open file formats using GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD. If you believe any errors exist with any of this post then please contact us immediately so we can rectify.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 15.21.58

Image: GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 17 site geometry test file

The test file consists of a series of elements modelled with different surface colours. On the left hand side the geometry has been classified as ‘Site Geometry’ in ARCHICAD’s IFC Element Classification. On the right hand side the geometry has been classified as ‘Building Element Proxy’.

Notes on data

Although this test is not focussed on data it is important to understand that changing between these 2 settings is the availability of data for each Element Classification. Site Geometry has no way of adding data to the individual elements. Data can be transferred at the IfcSite level from ARCHICAD but the geometry acts as a single element in the model (although in Revit specifically planes can be selected individually). So in other words you can’t split the data down to tarmac, concrete, grass etc.

Building Element Proxy however means we can add any property data we need to these elements individually. So from a data point of view choosing Building Element Proxy is more useful when it comes to information as it allows a greater breakdown of the data.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 14.36.01

Image: GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD Site Geometry Element Classification – no IFC Property data available with this setting

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 14.36.11

Image: GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD Building Element Proxy Element Classification – IFC Property data is available with this setting

IFC test files

In order to promote open workflows we have shared all 3 test files on our Files page in the BIM Resources section of this blog. Further blog pieces and files will be added in future.

Site geometry translator options

In order to export from ARCHICAD we use a translator to select the required settings. GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 17 & 18 has 3 options for geometry representation for exporting Site Geometry. These are:

  1. As boundary representation (BREP)
  2. As face-based surface (top surface)
  3. As geometric set (wireframe)

Site geometry translator settings

Image: GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 18 geometry representation settings

All exports have used Coordination View Version 2.0.

For this test we have tested all 3 translator options available into the following software:

  • Autodesk A360 [added March 31st 2015]
  • Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture 2015 (Service Pack 2)
  • Autodesk Infraworks 2015 [added March 19th 2015]
  • Autodesk Navisworks 2015 and 2016 [2016 version added April 30th 2016]
  • Autodesk Revit 2015 and 2016 – Opened and Linked [2016 version added April 30th 2016]
  • Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5)
  • BIM Vision 2.10 [added August 31st 2016]
  • DDS-CAD Viewer 8.0
  • Exactal CostX
  • IfcOpenShell.org
  • Nemetschek Allplan 2015-1-4 [added March 24th 2015]
  • Nemetschek Vectorworks 2015
  • Solibri Model Checker 9.5 and 9.6
  • Synchro 5.3.1.4 [added August 31st 2016]
  • Tekla BIMsight 9.1.3
  • Tekla Structures 21
  • Trimble Connect (using Apple Mac OSX 10.9.5; Safari 7.1.3)
  • Trimble Sketchup Make 15.3.331
  • Viewpoint 4BIM (using Apple Mac OSX 10.9.5; Safari 7.1.3)
  • xBIM Xplorer 2.4.1.28
  • Reimported to GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 18

Note: We would be happy to update this blog piece with other software if others would like to open each of the 3 files and send us back screenshots.

These are the results of our tests:

ARCHICAD IFC translator setting no.01 results – As boundary representation (BREP)

These are the results using the first translator option:

A360-IfcSiteGeometry-AC17-BREP

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Autodesk A360

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-ACA2015

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture 2015 (Service Pack 2)

Infrastructure2015-IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Autodesk Infraworks 2015 [added March 19th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-NW2015

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Autodesk Navisworks 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-NW2016

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Autodesk Navisworks 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-RVT2015-Opened-

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-RVT2016-Opened-

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-RVT2015-Linked-

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-RVT2016-Linked-

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

REFERENCE_IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5) [Updated March 16th PM]

BIM_Vision_IFC_01_AsBREP-AC17

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in BIM Vision 2.10 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-DDSCAD

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in DDS-CAD v8.0

CostX-AsBREP

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Exactal CostX [added June 4th 2015]

IfcOpenShell-brep

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in IfcOpenShell.org

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17_Allplan_Version_2015-1-4_Picture

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Nemetschek Allplan 2015  [added March 24th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-Vectorworks

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Nemetschek Vectorworks 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-Solibri

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Solibri Model Checker v9.5

Solibri v96 BREP

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Solibri Model Checker v9.6 [Added October 15th 2015]

Synchro_IFC_01_AsBREP-AC17

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Synchro 5.3.1.4 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-TEKLA-BIMSIGHT

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Tekla BIMsight Viewer v9.1.3

TeklaStructures21-brep-AC17

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Tekla Structures 21

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 12.58.28

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Trimble Connect

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-Sketch-Up-2015

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Trimble Sketchup Make 15.3.331

4BIM BREP

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in Viewpoint 4BIM

IfcSiteGeometryAsBREP-AC17-Xbim

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) in xBIM Xplorer 2.4.1.28

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 15.21.58

Image: As boundary representation (BREP) reimported into Graphisoft ARCHICAD 18

ARCHICAD IFC translator setting no.02 results – As face-based surface (top surface)

These are the results using the second translator option:

A360-IfcSiteGeometry-AC17-FaceBased

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Autodesk A360

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-ACA2015

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture 2015 (Service Pack 2)

Infrastructure2015-IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Autodesk Infraworks 2015 [added March 19th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-NW2015

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Autodesk Navisworks  2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-NW2016

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Autodesk Navisworks  2016 [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-RVT2015-Opened

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-RVT2016-Opened

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-RVT2015-Linked

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-RVT2016-Linked

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

REFERENCE_IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBased_Surface-AC17

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5) [Updated March 16th PM]

BIM_Vision_IFC_02_AsFaceBasedSurface-AC17

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in BIM Vision 2.10 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-DDSCAD

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in DDS-CAD v8.0

CostX-AsFaceBaseSurface

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Exactal CostX [added June 4th 2015]

IfcOpenShell-facebased

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in IfcOpenShell.org

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17_Allplan_Version_2015-1-4_Picture

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Nemetschek Allplan 2015 [added March 24th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-Vectorworks

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Nemetschek Vectorworks 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-Solibri

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Solibri Model Checker v9.5

Solibri v96 As Face Based

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Solibri Model Checker v9.6 [Added October 15th 2015]

Synchro_IFC_02_AsFaceBasedSurface-AC17

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Synchro 5.3.1.4 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-TEKLA-BIMSIGHT

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Tekla BIMsight Viewer v9.1.3

TeklaStructures21-FaceBased-AC17

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Tekla Structures 21

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 12.58.55

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Trimble Connect

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-Sketch-Up-2015

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Trimble Sketchup Make 15.3.331

4BIM FaceBased

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in Viewpoint 4BIM

IfcSiteGeometryAsFaceBasedSurface-AC17-Xbim

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) in xBIM Xplorer 2.4.1.28

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 15.26.03

Image: As face-based surface (top surface) reimported into Graphisoft ARCHICAD 18

ARCHICAD IFC translator setting no.03 results – As geometric set (wireframe)

These are the results using the third translator option:

A360-IfcSiteGeometry-AC17-AsGeometricSet

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Autodesk A360

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-ACA2015

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture 2015 (Service Pack 2)

Infrastructure2015-IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Autodesk Infraworks 2015 [added March 19th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-NW2015

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Autodesk Navisworks 2015 (its not immediately visible on the blog but the Site Geometry on the left hand side does show some points at the point of level change but there are no faces, lines or surface colours visible)

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-NW2016

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Autodesk Navisworks 2016 (its not immediately visible on the blog but the Site Geometry on the left hand side does show some points at the point of level change but there are no faces, lines or surface colours visible) [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-RVT2015-Opened-

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2015

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-RVT2016-Opened-

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) Opened in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-RVT2015-Linked

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2015 – the Site Geometry on the left hand side is completely lost with this method

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-RVT2016-Linked

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) Linked in Autodesk Revit 2016 [added April 30th 2016]

REFERENCE_IfcSiteGeometryasGeometrySet

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5) [Updated March 16th PM]

BIM_Vision_IFC_03_AsGeometricSet-AC17

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in BIM Vision 2.10 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-DDSCAD

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in DDS-CAD Viewer v8.0 (with render by colour setting switched on)

CostX-AsGeometricSet

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Exactal CostX [added June 4th 2015]

IfcOpenShell-geometric

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in IfcOpenShell.org

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometrySet-AC17_Allplan_Version_2015-1-4_Picture

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Nemetschek Allplan 2015 [added March 24th 2015]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-Vectorworks

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Nemetschek Vectorworks 2015 – the left hand side does have a wireframe although it is not that clear on this blog image

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-Solibri

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Solibri Model Checker v9.5

Solibri v96 As Geometric Set

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Solibri Model Checker v9.6 [Added October 15th 2015]

Synchro_IFC_03_AsGeometricSet-AC17

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Synchro 5.3.1.4 [Added August 31st 2016]

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-TEKLA-BIMSIGHT

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Tekla BIMsight v9.1.3

TeklaStructures21-GeometricSet-AC17

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Tekla Structures 21

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 12.59.18

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Trimble Connect

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-Sketch-Up-2015

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Trimble Sketchup Make 15.3.331

4BIM Geometric Set

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in Viewpoint 4BIM

IfcSiteGeometryAsGeometricSet-AC17-Xbim

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) in xBIM Xplorer 2.4.1.28

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 15.26.51

Image: As geometric set (wireframe) reimported into Graphisoft ARCHICAD 18

Conclusions

The following are summary conclusions:

  • All geometry defined as ‘Building Element Proxy’ works in all software irrelevant of which translator is used. Note: One negative of using Building Element Proxy would be the loss of the contouring into Autodesk Revit 2015 when using ‘As face-based surface (top surface)’ or ‘As geometric set (wireframe)’.
  • All geometry works with the BREP translator methodology except colour is lost with elements classified as ‘Site Geometry’ into Exactal CostX, Nemetschek Vectorworks and Trimble Sketchup Make. [Updated October 15th 2015]
  • Only about half the solutions support ‘As face-based surface (top surface)’ or ‘As geometric set (wireframe)’.
  • The overall winners (for now!) are: Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture, Autodesk REVIT (Open only), Bentley AECOsim Building Designer v8i (SELECTseries 5)DDS-CAD Viewer, Solibri Model Checker v9.6Tekla BIMsight, Tekla Structures and reimporting to GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD. So in summary 8 out 22 can use either definition of geometry and any of the translators in ARCHICAD and geometry and colour will be preserved. [Updated October 15th 2015]

It is clear that the file does work and therefore this is not an issue with the IFC itself but how the various software solutions handle the files. For now we will change our templates to use Building Element Proxy for our site modelling as the benefits of being able to use the data both within ARCHICAD and being able to export the data in IFC will have benefits to developing our approach to data rich site modelling. However hopefully this whole exercise will nudge a few solutions to ultimately improve their imports.

Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Architects

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Further information

For further information on IFC2x3 IfcSite see the buildingSMART Technical Corrigendum. Navigate by selecting Alphabetical Listing, then choose Entities and then scroll to select IfcSite.

 

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7 thoughts on “Interoperability testing: IFC 2×3 site geometry exchange

  1. In tests conducted interoperability they will not find large differences, since the programs used are not specialized in information management programs topography rather are dedicated to architecture.

    If you really want to test with dedicated programs, so you will see that the IFC is currently limited by the standard for the exchange of information for civil engineering design and survey measurement data, since the standard is the LandXML format.

    Make a test with Autodesk Civil 3d, Eagle Point, Carlson and will know what you tell them.

    • Carlos,

      The files are on the blog (BIM Resources > Files) so if you want to test in other software then feel free. Unfortunately I don’t have access to Autodesk Civil 3D, Eagle Point or Carlson. I would be happy to add the results to the blog. I just need the software name, version and images from a similar angle to those provided.

      On the topic of IFC there are plans to develop IFC for Infrastructure. However as architects this currently is less of an issue for us other than federation with Civils models.

  2. Hi there,

    I have tested the 3 files you published here on CostX (Cost Estimation software), I’d be interested to send you the screenshots I have taken from it if you are interested.

    Also, I would be interested to perform further tests in the future, particularly with IFC4 from ArchiCAD into CostX. We haven’t received in model from an ArchiCAD designer to date, but when it finally happens, I want to be ready to let the designer know how to export his file properly so I have access to the data that I need to price it.

    Thanks.
    Regards.

    Adrien Guillemet
    5D (BIM) Information Manager – KTP Associate
    Henry Riley LLP
    Part of Riley Consulting
    E: adrien.guillemet@riley-consulting.com
    D: +44 (0)20 8662 2273
    M: +44 (0)77307 13425

    • Thanks Adrien. I will get these updated later this week.

      At the moment ArchiCAD can’t export IFC4 but i’m sure it will be able in future versions.

      There are a few blog piece about IFC exchange but we plan to add more over time. I just need to find some time!

  3. Thanks Rob

    I haven’t been exporting site geometry (mesh) via IFC because I had read there were some issues with importing. You (and the other testers) have proved that it does. Thank you. I will use Building Element Proxy now for site mesh when I need to export it.

    Thank you
    Jason

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