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IFC module in BriefBuilder

In this article, we explain BriefBuilder’s IFC feature. You can read about:

Click on the topics above to jump straight to the part that you are interested in!

Good to know: for now, the feature’s focus is on spaces. The technical systems and elements are not yet part of the integration.

Activating the IFC module

To activate the IFC module you have to go the settings menu and there click on modules. In the module overview, you can find the IFC module in lower right corner.

Background and Purpose

The IFC module allows you to import IFC data into BriefBuilder and then automatically link the ‘required spaces’ (as defined in BriefBuilder) to the ‘designed spaces’ (as defined in the IFC file). This will then give you a direct insight in how requirements have been translated into spatial design solutions.

For BIM novices: IFC is a neutral and open data format that is widely used in the AEC industry to exchange data about buildings between different applications. More info about the format can be found here.

The overall aim of this integration is to bridge the gap between briefing and design, and to link requirements to design solutions.

As a construction client, you can use this feature to get a quick understanding of where your spaces ‘ended up’ in the design. As a design team, you can use it to do visual checks of how floor plans work in relation to the client’s requirements.

In this example, you can quickly see which rooms in the IFC-model haven’t been mapped yet, indicating that these rooms weren’t mentioned in the client brief, or that the design team forgot to give these rooms the right number or name.

In the case of renovation projects, you may want to use this feature to link requirements to existing building plans, e.g. defining which spaces need to be fully renovated and which ones just need a new paint job. See example below.

This is an example of a ‘requirements heatmap’ for a renovation project that shows the different renovation levels for the spaces in a building.

Importing IFC files

IFC files can be imported via BriefBuilder’s settings menu.

Note: you only see these settings if have the right role with the right permissions. Not having the right roles or permissions? 👉 Check with the model’s requirements manager.

Also note: to be able to work with IFC in BriefBuilder you need an IFC file that contains spaces (IfcSpace) and that is of the format IFC2x3 TC1.

The import action consists of 4 steps:

Step 1: Select file

Select the IFC file that you want to import into BriefBuilder. Make sure that the file contains spaces (IfcSpace) and that the format is IFC2x3 TC1.

Step 2: Upload file

Once you have selected a file, click on upload on the right hand side of your screen. The file will be then processed by BriefBuilder. This may take some time depending on the size and complexity of the IFC model.

Step 3: Define mapping rule

In this step, you can define the mapping rule that (automatically) maps the IFC spaces to the spaces that have been defined in BriefBuilder.

For both the BriefBuilder spaces and the IFC spaces, you have to select which attribute should be used for the mapping process.

The mapping process can be performed in various ways. One common approach is to match the IFC long name with the object name in BriefBuilder. However, the mapping can also be based on BriefBuilder’s object IDs and the IDs on the IFC side, provided that they are similar. This all depends on the BIM protocol agreed upon for the project.

When selecting these attributes, you will immediately see how the mapping works in the trees below. The check mark and question mark icons indicate whether a space is mapped or not.

In this example, there are 105 IFC spaces that have been mapped to a BriefBuilder space, and 165 spaces that haven’t been mapped. The large number of unmapped spaces suggests that the IFC file might be missing information or that another mapping rule should be chosen.

TIP: you can export the mapping data to Excel. Such an overview may be useful for your design team if they have to make changes in their design model to make the mapping work better.

Please note: in IFC, a space may span over other spaces. In BriefBuilder this isn’t possible: there, a space is a unique object that cannot be further subdivided (just like ‘rooms’ in Revit cannot be further subdivided). This is something to take into account when you make your mapping or when you make your IFC export. It is easiest when your IFC file does not contain overlapping spaces.

Step 4: Import IFC tree

When you are happy with your mapping, it is time to do the actual import of the IFC information in the BriefBuilder model. This is done by clicking on the Import IFC tree button in the lower right corner.

The duration of the import process depends on the size and complexity of the IFC file.

Once the import process is completed, you can jump to the IFC data by clicking on either View IFC tree or View floor plan.

Viewing IFC data

IFC data that have been imported into BriefBuilder can be viewed and approached from different directions. Below we’ll explain the different possibilities in detail.

On the detail view of a BriefBuilder space

On the detail of a BriefBuilder space, you can see the mapped IFC spaces in the table Associated spaces IFC model.

There, you can also see a icon which brings you to the floor plan viewer where the relevant spaces will be highlighted in blue.

IFC tree

In the navigation menu, under the IFC header, you can find the menu item IFC Spaces. If you click on that, you will find all the IFC spaces presented in a tree structure.

For each IFC space, you can see the details by clicking on them in the tree, just like you do in any other BriefBuilder tree.

To see to which BriefBuilder space an IFC space is connected, you have to go to the table Associated spaces in requirements model.

Please note: you can only view IFC data in BriefBuilder, not edit it. This is because IFC data typically comes from the design team and thus it is ‘their’ data so to speak. In BriefBuilder, the data can only be used for the purpose of checking and viewing in regards to the requirements.

Floor plan viewer

In the navigation menu, you will also see the menu item Floor plans. This will bring you to a 2D viewer of the IFC data.

In the viewer, you can view the different floor levels of the building and the spaces that are placed on those floors as well as the walls, windows and doors (if present in provided IFC file).

To navigate through the different floor levels, you can either use the pull down menu or click on the small icons on either side of it.

When clicking on a space in a floor plan, you can choose to see either the IFC data or the associated BriefBuilder data by using the yellow buttons.

To ensure that you know what you are looking at, we have applied a color coding:

> IFC spaces are highlighted purple
> BriefBuilder are highlighted blue.

Heat maps

In the floor plan viewer (Navigation menu > IFC > Floor plans), it is also possible create ‘heatmaps’ in which requirements data or IFC data are projected onto floor plans by means of colour schemes.

Such heatmaps can help visualize how requirements have been translated into the building’s spatial design, which can be useful for the communication with the building’s users and for analysing both the requirements and the design proposal.

To create a heatmap, follow these steps:

Step 1: Go to the relevant floor that you want to look at

Step 2: Click on the palette icon ()

Step 3: Configure your heatmap

When clicking on the icon, you get a pop-up in which you have to do three things:

  • Select whether you want to see requirements data (as captured in BriefBuilder) or IFC data (as captured in the IFC file)
  • Select the specific property that you want to see (e.g. temperature level, security zoning etc., dependent on how your model has been set up)
  • Select the color scheme you want to use.

When you’re happy with your selections, click on apply.

Note: it is possible that you have to play around with the colour schemes a bit. In case your property has a set of picklist values, discrete colour codes tend to work best, unless you have a very long list values. In most other cases you can best pick a color continuum.

TIP: you can download the heatmap as an image (SVG or PNG) by clicking on the icon.

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