Help linking IFC to Estimation software


Introduction :-

I’m from India. My company is developing an Estimation software for the Construction Industry in India. This software uses the Masterformat Coding system, and broadly based on the RS Means database.

Through our interaction with multiple buyers (Contractors, Architects, Construction companies etc.), we’ve been asked about linking our software to a design software repeatedly. This prompted me to study Revit (Parameters, Elements, Keynotes etc.) in some depth. While doing this, I came to read about IFC, and how it’s the default software for data exchange in BIM. This led me to read up on IFC, and to gain firsthand knowledge by using it with my copy of Revit.

Before you read on, please note, I don’t have any technical knowledge about software development myself. And I have a very limited, basic knowledge about technical drawing. As such, my queries will be in layman terms, and my understanding of the responses might take time. Please bear with me with in this regard.

Body :-

Just my casual reading through the schemas, & flipping through various screenshots, lead me to believe that integration of IFC with my software will not be as difficult as I had initially envisaged.

Our software has a ‘Property Master’ at the back-end of our database. This master breaks up various construction items (Pumps, Motors, Sinks, Light Fixtures, Windows, Furniture etc.) into various “Properties”. This includes ‘basic dimensions’ like Length, Width, Thickness, Radius etc. It also has complex dimensions like Pressure, Water Flow Rate, Area, Current, Density, Electric Charge, Luminous Flux etc. Apart from such dimension & sizes, we also include things like Shape, Colour, Basic Material, Technical Standard etc.

I’ve seen enough in IFC to know that many of these “properties” in our database can correlate easily to various IFC ‘heads’. There’s IFCShape, IFCLengthmeasure, IFCUnit, IFCMaterial etc.

We also separate all the different Units (mm, K, sqmm, psig, kg etc.) from each Item, and store them in a separate field. We then run this through a ‘Conversion Master’ which can calculate basic conversion through set formulas easily (mm to inch, Celcius to Kelvin etc.). I think the IFC Table 126 can easily relate to this ‘conversion master’ in our database (and their corresponding ‘groups’, like Length, Pressure, Thickness, Area etc.).

Finally, we assign various ‘Keywords’ to each element (construction item). This basically specifies what item is (Pump, Light Fixture, Wash Basin etc.) in various levels of details.

I would like to know how we can extract all these details from a design software using IFC, and link all these different groups in my database?

Requirements :-

My requirements for links with IFC are very specific. For starters, we’re going to link all these details into my software, and then, hopefully, move the clients data into our database (construction objects, their prices, manufacturer info etc.). i.e.- We don’t need to export data through IFC into other software (maybe that comes later). We also don’t need to have anything to do with the design relationship part of BIM. i.e.- The relation between a washbasin with its corresponding wall, and the floor, is of no importance to me.

I just want the different details for each element (size, colour, model etc.), and to link those details with their corresponding ‘groups’ in our database. I would then like my software to assimilate all these different links (size, shape, colour etc.), and suggest the best match for each element with an element (‘item’) of matching description in our database.

Example :-

A typical Revit model should have details like Wash basin Depth, Dia. etc. And the material (ceramic, steel, marble etc.) it’s made of. I want these details (dia, depth, material) to get linked to the relevant group in our database. Then our software can make suggestions (depending on the Element Type) and suggest the closest match in our database. Similarly, if a floor in Revit is made of Marble, the marble would have a thickness. And the Area of that floor would determine how much quantity of marble is being used in that model.

I don’t know how to link the various IFC heads to their corresponding ‘groups’ in our database. I don’t even know if this broad idea has any sort of practical feasibility in the real world. These are just general/ layman thoughts, and would sincerely appreciate any & all the help in this matter.

Vikram Poddar