Finland’s construction industry is on a digitalization frenzy. The national KIRA-digi program paves way to a digital built environment ecosystem through government funding. BuildingSMART Finland has started a KIRA-digi project to standardize open BIM data exchange for building construction.

BuildingSMART Finland is a collaboration forum that disseminates information on BIM and supports its members in implementing BIM. Standardization is at the core of BuildingSMART Finland’s mission. The organization initiated a project in April 2017 to augment the open IFC standard with property sets and attributes that will make design models truly machine-readable.

IFC is good, but not enough

IFC is the international standardized format for sharing building information models between software applications. It’s strong in transferring geometrical data. It also maintains certain intelligent features of the model’s components. A system reading the IFC file can understand that a certain component is, e.g. a door or a pipe.

The problem with today’s application of IFC is that the attributes of the building components are not sufficiently standardized. A door can be a fire door or a simple office door, but there’s no agreement on how that property should be presented in the model.

Every design software can have a proprietary way to present certain attributes. That’s why a bills of quantities system, for example, cannot read IFC files and trust that the attributes are coded coherently, no matter where the file came from.

Augmented IFC

The buildingSMART’s KIRA-digi project scope is to harmonize the data that is transferred within a building construction project. It covers architectural, structural, and MEP models. The project operates on a practical, grassroots level of data exchange.

The developers of the new data exchange norms include architects, engineers, contractors, manufacturers, and software vendors. BuildingSMART Finland coordinates the project and is responsible for publishing the results.

The main outcome of the project is an IFC-compatible definition of attributes and property sets and how to apply them in different use cases. The definitions are based on Finnish practices, but they are presented in English. They will be freely available for anyone to use and will provide a platform for national and European standardization in this field.

How to use the new norms

The new norms will be a supplement to the Common BIM Requirements 2012.  It allows software developers to unify the way they present building components in IFC files. This makes it possible to transfer useful attribute data between systems automatically.

The makers of the new norms have realized that it’s not practical to include all possible information in an IFC file. That would bloat the files unnecessarily and make their use impractical. Instead, the new norms will allow references to external systems, e.g. manufacturer databases.

Designers, contractors, and quantity surveyors will save time since they no longer need to input information manually when transferring data from one system to another. The risk of errors and omissions will go down dramatically.

As the flow of information from design to construction becomes efficient, the production of as-built files for use and maintenance will become easier. In all, the new norm will increase overall productivity of building construction projects.

The first version is in test use from June 30 through August 18, 2017 and can be downloaded at buildingsmart.fi (Finnish version).

For more information on the project, contact the project coordinator Anna-Riitta Kallinen at anna-riitta.kallinen(at)gravicon.fi

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