As impressive as a 3D Model in itself may appear, it does not leave much room for collaboration and integration if it is unable to retain and effectively transfer or share specifications and other important information relating to the building. The key to BIM in this sense lies in the communication of information between the 3D building elements and the BIM Database. With Allplan for example one has the possibility to directly access the BIM Database from within the programme to establish a direct link to the Database. (See Figure 5.7)
Karstens (2006a) explained that Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is an open standard that generate data schema for software interoperability. This process can be used to integrate vendors’ software or product. For example, a ‘door specified in one software package will still be a door when it is translated into a different package’. (Karstens 2006a)
Although the standard is still evolving, it is possible for software vendors to support IFC certification by programming its software to conform to the AEC industry standard. (Karstens, 2006)
Construction Computing Online (CCO, 2006b) further supported the views of Karstens (2006) and also defined the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI), which was formed to help achieved coordination with in the AEC industry. The IAI Industry Foundation Classes is the only recognised standard by the International Standard Organisation (IOS).
Hoback, (2006) argued that since IFC is still expanding, this means that some of the future potential of BIM modelling was not actually available from all CAD program layers. At present;
- ‘it appears that most CAD design software delivers an IFC file that is useable by a structural analysis program that can import the IFC format.’ (Hoback, 2006)
However, the IFC format for export of the structural analysis to other detailing software is not yet complete. Designers are aware of some of the file compatibility issues such as Drawing (DWG), Drawing Exchange Format (DXF) and so on.
But the problems with these file types is that designers and developers are reluctant to share information in the fear of losing future sales. Fisher (2005) further illustrated the IFC standard integrating the design, analysis, construction and facility management process. (See Figure 4.3)
Howel and Batcheler (2006) explained that CURT (Construction Users Round Table) in their analysis discovered that project schedule and cost overruns is linked to lack of cooperation and integration among design, construction and operation of the project lifecycle. They further argued that for BIM success interoperability is paramount.