AEC Tech News #140

16 Mar, 2005 By: Michael Dakan

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

ArchiCAD Passes the Test

BIM Solution Complies with Singapore's Electronic Regulation-Testing System

Graphisoft has announced that its flagship BIM (building information modeling) program, ArchiCAD, has passed the rigorous testing for compliance with Singapore's electronic regulation-testing system. Graphisoft claims that ArchiCAD is the only design software system to have passed both phases of this compliance testing. Singapore's code-checking program uses IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) version 2.x building data, which is being developed by IAI (International Alliance for Interoperability).

Singapore's Compliance Testing
Singapore's regulation compliance testing is based on its $22.6 million CORENET, which contains e-Plan Check system, an automated plan-checking application based on IFC data. CORENET e-Plan Check was developed and implemented by novaCitynets, a Singapore-based IT consulting organization.

Singapore's CORENET IT structure is Web-based and consists of several modules that various public agencies within Singapore and outside parties seeking regulatory approvals for building projects can use. In addition to e-Plan Check, modules are available for tracking submissions (e-Submissions System), an information repository containing standards, codes and regulations (e-Information) and for a variety of other purposes in the building construction realm. The Singapore Building Construction Authority initiated CORENET and monitors it.

So far, e-Plan Check reviews plan, accessibility, energy, fire safety and drainage information. Review of building services such as HVAC is scheduled for rollout toward the end of 2005. Because e-Plan Check is modular and rules-based, additional components can be added over time. Obviously, it is going to take some time to automate the plan check of what is close to the entirety of a building structure. In the meantime, the Singapore Building Construction Authority does a complete, traditional, manual plan check before a permit can be issued. But the e-Plan Check software provides a good starting point for the review, and will undoubtedly become more complete over time.

Within the CORENET structure, EPM's Express Data Manager handles the IFC data. EPM is an Oslo, Norway-based organization that provides suites of tools for translating and handling a variety of international standards, including ISO 10303 (STEP), PDES and other ISO standards, in addition to the IAI XML data schema. EPM is a partner with novaCitynets IT consultants to provide the Express Data Manager technological infrastructure for CORENET.

Graphisoft Connection
Interestingly, and probably not coincidentally, Graphisoft uses the same technology from EPM for its IFC translator in ArchiCAD. The ArchiCAD Virtual Building IFC XML data plugs directly into CORENET's e-Plan Check.

This raises an interesting question for the future, as IFC-based extensions to building automation proliferate. Many organizations and companies are developing applications to extend building information modeling to include building materials take-off and cost estimating, specifications, energy usage and so forth, and they all have to translate the IFC XML data to work with their applications. At the same time, CAD and BIM developers have to translate their native objects and element types to IFC XML data.

Reality Falls Short
The IAI's XML data model and schema is a publicly available standard and is supposed to be a universal data model. But we all have experienced the situation in which a CAD developer claims to be read-and-write compliant with certain file formats and standards, but in reality the compliance falls short of perfection. This has been the case for many long-standing formats such as DXF and de-facto standards such as Autodesk's proprietary DWG file format, and it typically takes a long time for developers to complete the capabilities to deliver fully on their compliance promises.

CAD developers have to translate their native drawing object types and entities in their own allowable native file formats to fit the IFC data model. Compounding the problem is the fact that CAD database file formats need to change over time to accommodate new features and objects, and few BIM programs yet have the full native complement of objects available in the complete IFC standard schema, which itself is undergoing change, extensions and refinement from one release to the next. Obviously, keeping up with and coordinating this is a massive undertaking overall, and it will not happen very quickly.

Nevertheless, it is very encouraging to see the progress being made by some BIM developers such as Graphisoft, working in partnership with other vendors and public agencies to take some giant steps toward realizing the full potential of the BIM concept. Realizing the complete potential of BIM may not be just around the corner, but it's on the way.

Graphisoft ArchiCAD