Building Smart with IFC

– “A lot of exciting things are happening on many fronts in building and construction at the moment, and several of these were presented at this year’s international Building Smart trade fair, which this time took place in Lillestrøm north of Oslo,” says Eirik Hovind, developer of IFC at Lysaker-based Railcomplete AS. “We at Railcomplete are particularly interested in how we can utilize IFC in our work and we are exploring what opportunities the new file format can provide for railways. Therefore, it was extra nice that IFC Tunnel contacted us in advance, but let’s start at the beginning…”

What exactly is IFC?

IFC stands for “Industry Foundation Classes,” and is a file format used in the construction industry to store and exchange data about buildings, infrastructure and facilities. The format is designed to improve collaboration between different software tools and platforms used throughout the construction process, including architecture, engineering, construction, facilities management – and of course, rail development.

Rail development involves engineers, architects, contractors, rail companies and governments, and the IFC standard helps them to easily share and collaborate on project information, regardless of the software they use. This increases collaboration and coordination between different parties. Since the data exchange between the different software applications is standardized, the risk of data errors and inconsistencies is reduced.

Due to the rail networks’ high demands for accurate maintenance and management, IFC is highly suitable for creating digital twins of the rail infrastructure. This is useful for asset management, maintenance planning and infrastructure optimization.

In combination with BIM, IFC and BIM technologies can help improve the efficiency, quality and sustainability of rail development projects by enabling better collaboration, data exchange and documentation management throughout the entire lifecycle of rail infrastructure.

IFC takes shape for Tunnel and Rail

IFC as a file format has historically been used in the construction industry, but now the standard is being extended to rail and tunnel, bridge and road.

– “The nice thing about trade fairs like BuildingSMART is that those of us who usually sit in the office and code get to see how different forms of software are used, such as in the modeling software for the road tunnel excavations for the E18 West Corridor,” says Eirik.

The IFC Tunnel committee held a lecture series where Eirik had prepared a video about his contribution to IFC Rail. Since the use of IFC is relatively new in railways, work is still ongoing to reach a consensus on how best to communicate different concepts via IFC files.

– “We at Railcomplete have for several years participated and contributed to the committee for “Alignment With Cant” within IFC Rail”, says Eirik – “We have helped with the design of requirements for the format, created sample files and contributed with domain knowledge. In this work, we have contributed to create elegant formulations of complex and heavy data models with IFC Rail 4×3. Being able to make smart use of IFC Rail is important for keeping file sizes to a minimum – 3D files for railway facilities quickly become very large.”

– “Where we end up in the use of IFC and how we at Railcomplete will approach this is too early decide, but we are sure that IFC will play a bigger role for railways in the future,” Eirik concludes.



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