Recently, buildingSMART International invited stakeholders vested in the development of Open BIM processes and standards to Barcelona for a summit to learn about the latest developments in IFC strategy.
The buildingSMART Standards Summit brought together a number of perspectives from around the world to discuss the needs that remain to be addressed to improve collaboration through BIM platforms.
Jonathan Riondet, AEC Solution Technical Director for Dassault Systèmes, presented a session focusing on the needs of infrastructure owners, designers and contractors.
He noted that IFC, at the moment, remains focused on the needs of building designers and contractors, but both the industry and the standard must evolve to provide support in IFC 4 for infrastructure.
IFC 4 is the first IFC extension project to address infrastructure. It is largely about being able to manage alignment. Everything needs to be driven by alignment, as alignment sets the center line of every road, bridge, tunnel, etc.
The goal for infrastructure alignment is to create horizontal and vertical alignments which can be imported—in an IFC 4 format—into or out of any software platform. Each application can create a 3D curve driven by those horizontal and vertical alignments.
At present, Riondet said, no industrialized design solution on the market beyond the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can read IFC 4 with alignment. When IFC file is imported into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the alignment information remains intelligent and can be modified.
The process works like this:
- First, you import the terrain through a point cloud or geo-localized information.
- From that terrain, you can insert a geo-located point or create your horizontal alignment.
- From your horizontal alignment you are able to create vertical alignment, which takes into account local terrain and other structures.
- You can create an unfolded view of the terrain and a projection of existing 3D content to simplify the input of the vertical alignment.
- From the vertical alignment, the software automatically creates a 3D alignment curve, which is what drives, for example, the center line of a bridge, tunnel, road, and so on.
All of this information is managed through defined design rules, for example industry or localized rules for length, speed, gradient etc., which can be used automatically by all platform users in the collaborative space.
There are groups, Riondet noted, making great strides in applying virtual design construction to infrastructure projects:
- Dr. Hyoun-Seok Moon of the Korean Institute of Construction Technology is developing BIM solutions using the IFC format for road construction.
- The China Railway BIM Alliance is urging greater interoperability in the application of IFC standards for rail design. The Alliance is projecting that more than 20,000km of high-speed rail line will be built by 2020, a tremendous scope of work that will benefit hugely from the application of virtual design technology.
IFC needs to be the main format for infrastructure project collaboration. But, because the IFC standards are mainly building-oriented, a viable platform must let users define new structures based on the formats that IFC has mapped out.
For example, an IFC bridge does not yet exist, so users can map it based on an IFC building. Of course, since a bridge will not have the same properties as a building, there are specific features that still must be created to capture the needs of the infrastructure domain.
Solution providers need to support interoperability based on IFC open data standards so that all project contributors can work together, easing the burden on the industry and dramatically improving productivity in infrastructure construction.