Building Information Modeling

Integration between architectural and MEP design through the IFC openBIM

The perfect integration between architectural and a MEP project is essential to avoid delays in deliveries and waste of resources. Find out how to achieve it with IFC openBIM

As the construction industry moves towards more collaborative and integrated workflows, the need for effective communication between different disciplines within a project becomes increasingly important. In particular, the integration between architectural projects and MEP systems (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) can be challenging and often lead to errors, revisions and delays.

However, the use of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) and openBIM (Building Information Modeling) can greatly improve this integration, allowing seamless communication between the different project stakeholders.

IFC openBIM, in fact, is the solution to all communication and coordination issues between the different designers working on the same construction project. Using an open and non-proprietary file format enables you to connect all the professionals involved that might be using different software solutions for different disciplines. Thanks to the IFC openBIM you don’t necessarily need to have the same software used to generate files but simply use an online BIM management system to better manage models. Consequently, you can view the projects (architectural, plant and structural) made with the most popular BIM authoring software currently on the market.

Let’s have a look immediately and see how to improve the integration between architectural and MEP projects with IFC OpenBIM.

What is IFC OpenBIM?

The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is an open, non-proprietary and standardized BIM data exchange format that allows you to represent all the building elements in a complete and professional way. The openBIM IFC is therefore a reference standard for modelling and management of building-related information, including installation systems.

How does IFC openBIM differ from traditional BIM?

IFC openBIM is a collaborative approach for design and construction that is based on the use of open standards and non-proprietary file formats that enable seamless communication and data exchange between different project stakeholders. Unlike traditional BIM (Building Information Modeling), which relies on proprietary file formats and closed systems, IFC openBIM is vendor-neutral and allows interoperability between different software applications.

How does IFC openBIM work?

The openBIM IFC allows you to model all construction elements, including systems, through a system of objects, attributes and relationships. Thanks to the openBIM IFC, it is possible to represent each building component in detail, including the plants’ technical characteristics, such as the type of material used, the installed power, the gas pressure, and so on.

How to use IFC openBIM to improve integration between architectural and plant design

To improve the integration between the architectural and plant project through the IFC openBIM, we recommend the following steps:

1. Use IFC-compatible BIM modeling software

To make the most of the IFC openBIM potential, you need to use compatible BIM modeling software so to enable IFC files import and export and model the building in detail.

Let’s take a practical example. The architectural designer generates the 3D model with his building design software and at the end of the operation, exports the model in the IFC open format and shares it with the installer. Next, the installer will be able to import the IFC architectural model into his BIM MEP systems software and add the plants design on the same model. This way of collaborating ensures fluidity in all phases of the design and helps to reduce the typical errors due to lack of communication and integration between the two design moments.

integration architectural and MEP design with IFC open BIM


2. Model the systems in detail

To improve the integration between the architectural and plant project, it is necessary to model the installation systems in detail, including all the information related to the technical features and systems performance. Consequently, it will be possible to verify the correct integration between the plant system and the architectural project thanks to the use of a BIM software for MEP systems.

3. Use clash detection to identify possible conflicts and improve the integration of architectural and plant design

Once the architectural and plant modeling have been completed, it is advisable to verify the perfect compatibility between the two models by performing a clash detection. Clash detection is an operation that allows you to identify any conflicts between the elements of the building, including the installation systems. Using a BIM clash detection software, enables you to verify the correct integration between the systems and the architectural project and identify any conflicts either geometric or information.

integration architectural and MEP project

Clash detection between architectural and MEP model

4. Track issues through BCF to solve any problems in the integration between architectural and MEP project

Once you have identified any conflicts through clash detection, you can track them through BCF (BIM Collaboration Format) to solve issues. Like the IFC, the BCF is also an open format that allows you to track problems encountered during the design and construction of the building, including those related to MEP systems.

In fact, it facilitates collaboration between professionals who also use different software applications: using the BCF, architects and plant engineers can better cordinate and share information more easily. To view, create and manage BCF files you need a BCF software.

To this extend, you’ll be able to:

  • optimize information exchange without having to transfer BIM models;
  • troubleshoot interoperability issues that occur when working with different software, or different versions of the same software;
  • speed up project review already in the preliminary phase, resolving any critical issues before construction.
bcf format for architectural project and plant integration

Interoperability thanks to the BCF format

5. Involve all professionals in relation to the project

To improve the integration between the architectural project and the plant, it is essential to involve all professionals in relation to the project, including facilities designers, engineers and architects. In this way, it will be possible to identify and solve any integration problems in a timely manner.

To this end, it is advisable that the entire team is always informed about all decisions and that the project files are always updated to the latest version and available to everyone. It is therefore advisable to organize periodic meetings, also through Video Meeting, Conference calls and online applications.

6. Use openBIM IFC for building management and maintenance

The use of openBIM IFC is not limited to the design phase, but can also be extended to the management and maintenance of the building. Thanks to the openBIM IFC, in fact, it is possible to manage and maintain the plants in a more efficient and precise way, reducing maintenance costs and improving the quality of service.

To plan maintenance interventions, track all activities and manage problems throughout the life cycle of the work, it is advisable to use a Facility Management Software, with which:

  • securely collect all documentation in digital format;
  • you have all the information always updated, georeferenced and accessible everywhere;
  • manage communication and collaboration more easily with cloud platform and mobile app;
  • reduce the response time and completion of maintenance tasks.

Why is collaboration between architectural projects and MEP systems important?

Collaboration between architectural projects and MEP systems is essential to ensure that the design and construction of buildings meet customer requirements, are safe and efficient, and comply with relevant regulations and standards. In particular, MEP systems play a crucial role in the overall performance of a building, including energy efficiency, indoor air quality and occupant comfort. Therefore, effective communication and coordination between architectural projects and MEP systems are essential for successful projects.

How does the IFC facilitate communication between different project stakeholders?

IFC facilitates communication between different project stakeholders, providing a common language and data structure for building information. Using IFC, different software applications can seamlessly exchange data, allowing project stakeholders to access and use the same information for different purposes, such as design, analysis and construction. This reduces errors and rework and enables more efficient workflows.

How can openBIM standards improve integration between architectural projects and MEP systems?

OpenBIM standards and best practices provide a framework for effective collaboration and communication between different project stakeholders.

By following openBIM standards and best practices, project stakeholders can ensure that they use consistent data structures, file formats and terminology, enabling seamless data exchange and reducing errors and rework. OpenBIM standards and best practices also promote transparency and accountability, allowing project stakeholders to monitor changes and ensure that the project meets customer requirements and relevant regulations and standards.

In conclusion, improving the integration between the architectural project and the plant through the IFC openBIM is essential to ensure the correct functionality of the building and to reduce maintenance costs. Using the openBIM IFC, it is possible to model the plants in detail, identify any conflicts through clash detection, track them through BCF and involve all the professionals involved in the project.



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