• Civil 3D: IFC 4.3

    Matt Kolberg
    Technical Consultant — INFRA/GIS at SolidCAD  

    There are many ways to send your data to colleagues, partners, friends, and enemies. DWG, LandXML, KMZ/KML, to name a few. They all have strengths and weaknesses. There’s a new(ish) kid on the block now. IFC. It has been around for a while now, especially in the building industry. It is emerging in the Civil Infrastructure industry, hence this article. Read on to find out more.

    I am going to preface this article by saying this is very new, there is not that much documentation about it, and I have limited practical experience. Ask me in 6 months and this may change. Please do your own research.

    What is IFC? Here is an article explaining it. Essentially, it is e vendor-neutral format used to exchange model data between software applications such as Civil 3D, OpenRoads, ArcGIS, and more. It is designed by a company named buildingSMART.

    Until recently, IFC has been for the most part ignored by Civil 3D users, mostly because it really wasn’t functional enough. Last year, buildingSMART released version 4.3 and this version allowed for more robust feature exchange. This year, with the released of Civil 3D 2024, Autodesk provides the tools to import, export, and configure IFC 4.3 format files.

    As a Civil 3D user, you must download and install the new extension. It can be found at manage.autodesk.com in Autodesk Access on your Windows desktop. IFC 4.3 does not come loaded with Civil 3D by default.

    What are the new commands? The release notes suggest that new commands are available in the Add-Ins ribbon tab in Civil 3D 2024. Maybe it didn’t work for me, or maybe I’m blind, but I do not see them. Most of the commands begin with IFCINF… Here is the online help document for more information.

    Is IFC like LandXML? The 2 formats currently do not share 100% parity. IFC does things that XML does not and vice versa. Your choice to use one or the other depends on your use case. Please, for your own sanity, experiment with them both to be certain your needs are met.

    One important thing to note is that IFC 4.3 files do not provide 100% round-trip functionality for all Civil 3D objects. Meaning, you can’t export your fancy parametric constraint rich alignment to IFC then import into another Civil 3D drawing and expect it to behave the same. These files are meant to be sent to non-Civil 3D users, surveyors, GIS specialists, etc.

    What about the future? Well, IFC 4.3, for all intents and purposes, version 1.0 for Civil 3D users. It is anyone’s guess how things will unfold.

    To learn more about Civil 3D, feel free to contact us.