IFC module

BriefBuilder has a dedicated IFC module that allows you to import an IFC file into your model. Below, you can watch the promotional video to get a general understanding of what you can do with it.

In this article, we’ll dive into the details of this new 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 need to go to the settings menu and click on modules. In the module overview, you will find the IFC module in the lower right corner.

Background and Purpose

The IFC module enables you to import IFC data into BriefBuilder and automatically connect the ‘required spaces’ (defined in BriefBuilder) to the ‘designed spaces’ (specified in the IFC file). This integration provides a direct insight into how requirements are translated into spatial design solutions.

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

The primary objective 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 quickly determine where your spaces have ‘ended up’ within the design. As a design team, you can use the integration to conduct checks to see how floor plans align with the client’s requirements.

In this example, you can quickly indentify the rooms in the IFC model that have not been mapped, indicating that either these rooms were not included in the client’s brief or that the design team forgot to assign these rooms the correct number or name.

In the case of renovation projects, you may want to use this feature to link requirements to existing building plans. For instance, you can define which spaces need to be fully renovated and which ones simply need a fresh coat of paint. See example below.

This is an example of a ‘requirements heatmap’ for a renovation project that shows varying levels of renovation for each space within a building.

Importing IFC files

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

Note: you can only see these settings if you have the right role with the right permissions. Do you not have 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 process 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 IFC file on the right hand side of your screen. BriefBuilder will then process the file. The processing time may vary depending on the size and complexity of the IFC model.

Good to know: uploading an IFC model is a background task. This means that you can work in BriefBuilder, or even close the application, while the task continues to run in the background. You’ll get an email notification when the task is completed.

Step 3: Define mapping rule

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

For both the BriefBuilder spaces and the IFC spaces, you need 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 they are similar. The specific approach depends on the BIM protocol agreed upon for the project.

As you select these attributes, you will immediately see how the mapping works in the tree view below. Checkmarks and question marks indicate whether a space is mapped or not.

In this example, there are 105 IFC spaces that have been mapped to a BriefBuilder space, while 165 spaces remain unmapped. The high number of unmapped spaces suggests that the IFC file may be missing information or that a different mapping rule should be chosen.

TIP: you can export the mapping data to Excel. This overview can be helpful for your design team if they need to make changes in their design model to improve the mapping.

Please note: in IFC, a space may span over other spaces. However, in BriefBuilder, this is not possible. A space is treated as a unique object that cannot be further subdivided, similar to “rooms” in Revit. Keep this in mind when performing the mapping or exporting the IFC file. It is easiest when your IFC file does not contain overlapping spaces.

Step 4: Import IFC tree

Once you are satisfied with the mapping, click on the Import IFC tree button in the lower right corner to initiate the actual import of the IFC information into the BriefBuilder model.

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

Good to know: also the import process is a background task. You’ll get an email notification when the task is completed.

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

Viewing IFC data

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

Please note: you can only view IFC data in BriefBuilder, you cannot 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.

Good to know: to view a floor plan of the uploaded IFC file, it is required that the spaces in the IFC model have a height of at least 1200 mm.

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.

You can create two kinds of heatmaps:

  1. a heatmap that shows the values of a single property (e.g. temperature level)
  2. a heatmap that shows the ratio between the values of two properties (e.g. the ratio between the spaces’ sizes in the BriefBuilder model and in the IFC model).

Heatmap for single property

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

Step 2: Click on the palette icon ()

Step 3: Select the property you want to see in your heatap

When clicking on the icon, you will get a pop-up with several selections:

  • To see one property, select View a single object property
  • Next, select whether you want to see a requirement property (as captured in BriefBuilder) or an IFC property (as captured in the IFC file)
  • Finally, 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)

Once you have made the data selection, choose the color scheme you want to use. Note: for properties with picklists as input type (e.g. class A, B and C), you can choose a set of discrete colors. For other properties (e.g. size), you will only be able to to choose a continuous color scale.

Note that there is ‘reverse’ check box that allows you to reverse the color setting, e.g. applying the dark tones to low values instead of the lighter tones.

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

Heatmap for a ratio of two properties

For properties with numerical values, it is possible to show the ratio between the values of two properties.

Basically, you do the same as explained above, but select you have to select View ratio between two numerical properties.

This can, for example, be relevant when you want to check the sizes of spaces between the IFC model and the BriefBuilder model. In that case, you select Usable floor area as requirement, and Area as IFC data. The floorplan will then show the ratio between these two values. A space with a ratio lower than 1 is larger than what is asked for. A ratio that is higher than 1 means that the space is smaller.

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

IFC data in cross tables

IFC data can also been viewed in Excel-like cross tables. For this, you have to go the cross tables in the navigation bar (can be found under the header overviews).

In the selections menu, you should select IFC Spaces as the tree that should be shown as rows.

Next, you should select the IFC properties that you want to see in the columns.

Select one or more IFC properties that you interested in.

Once you are happy with your selections, click on Show.

In this simple example, you see all the IFC spaces and their IFC property “unbounded height”.

Combining IFC and requirements data in cross tables

It is also possible to show both IFC and requirements data in a single cross table. This can be useful for if you want to make comparisons.

To do so, it is usually best to select Spaces & locations are your prime tree, and then add the IFC spaces as the combined tree.

And then select for both trees which properties you want to see.

In the example below, we have chosen the spaces’ free height for both, called floor-to-ceiling height in BriefBuilder and Unbounded height in this particular IFC model.

In the resulting cross table, you first see a BriefBuilder space and its required height, then all the corresponding IFC spaces with their specific heights. From the overview, you can easily deduct where the IFC model is deviating from the what has been asked for.

This example shows that the required height of the Central waiting area is 4 metres, and that the height of the corresponding IFC space (1AC1 CENTRAL WAITING AREA) is 4.57 metres.

Note: a true comparison table for checking IFC models against requirements in BriefBuilder is in the making!

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