IFC Mapping – Why everyone should embrace it

nathan hildebrandtSep 22 2014

In my previous post on the Top New Features of ArchiCAD 18 I listed IFC Mapping as my top feature. This feature enables users to manipulate the data that is native in ArchiCAD and use it in an almost an infinite number ways to use internally in ArchiCAD as part of data representation or to export customized data to OPENBIM IFC.


The capability to map data in IFC in ArchiCAD is not really a new feature. A few years ago a practice I know of needed data to be exported in a different way to the way to the native data output from ArchiCAD to IFC. Graphisoft opened the capability of IFC mapping through the direct editing of an XML file in a hotfix for ArchiCAD 16. This form of scripting is something that a capable GDL scripter could handle really easily but for a general user it is something that is really out of reach. So in ArchiCAD 18 Graphisoft have provided a user interface for the editing the XML file to structure of data output of IFC Parameters.


The response from most ArchiCAD users would be, "IFC isn't relevant to me as I don’t collaborate in 3D or IFC." I hope that in this post I can demonstrate the greater potential of the feature and relevance it can have to all users. It will significantly improve your coordination capability between your model and the notes / schedules you want to associate with it.


The first great use of the IFC mapping utilizes another New Feature in ArchiCAD 18, the Generic Label. This label has the capability of labeling data parameters of a modelled element including its IFC Parameters. Once again you might ask what is the value of putting data into IFC Parameters if you don’t need IFC? I wouldn’t be putting additional data into your model unless you need too and you want the data to populate as automatically as possible. This is where IFC Mapping comes in. You create custom information text chains using general parameters directly from an element in the IFC Mapping. This gives you the freedom to represent information in a structure that suits your needs rather than being forced to only represent data in the structured format of the base label. Working together these two features are a huge data enabler for a practice that has no GDL capabilities to create their own labels. Remember that the more labels you use to replace unlinked notes on drawings significantly improves the quality and coordination in your project documentation.

The next use I must give credit to Rob Jackson for suggesting to me at the KCC earlier this year, is the ability to map data from different element types into one column in an interactive schedule. Currently if  you want to display the top surface of a slab, roof and mesh in an interactive schedule it will present the data in 3 separate columns. If you map the 3 different parameters to the same IFC_PSET then you can schedule the IFC_PSET in one column. This will benefit Fulton Trotter Architects as we are using IS for Legends on our drawings.

Note that there are some limitations to the mapping and currently the new BMAT Parameters of ID, Manufacturer and Description currently can't be mapped to IFC. These parameters have the capability to be scheduled using the Interactive Component Scheduler. This is not a fault of Graphisoft but a limitation of data at a component level in IFC2x3. Parameters like these will be able to be linked / exported in IFC4 in the future when it is implemented into a future ArchiCAD release. IFC4 requirements are still not complete at the moment with BuildingSMART still working on the MVD.


Most critically it enables data to be rearranged from its native formats as I previously discussed and set up to output in IFC to meet your OPENBIM deliverables. This flexibility provides so much more for the user that ever before and means you can structure your data into a meaningful description for your Quantity Surveyor / Builder or even through COBie for Facilities Management deliverables.


This post only scratches the surface on some of the great things you can do with this great new feature. To learn more about the feature make sure you head over to the Graphisoft YouTube Channel and check out the following videos to get a better understanding of how Graphisoft have designed it to work.


Graphisoft YouTube Videos

ArchiCAD 18 New Features: Data Mapping

ArchiCAD 18 New Features: Labeling IFC Data

ArchiCAD 18 New Features: Scheme-Driven Data Management


I plan in the next week or so to create a few YouTube videos to demonstrate some of the processes that I discuss above. So you don’t miss out make sure you subscribe to the Skewed YouTube Channel


Finally make an effort to embrace this feature, you will find out it is really worthwhile investing time in data in ArchiCAD. This feature can be used by all practices small to large and provide significant benefits. Just remember you are only limited by your imagination.

As it is was coincidence Rob Jackson the ArchiCAD / COBie / IFC Guru has posted on his blog the same day. To learn about proper IFC Mapping make sure you continue your lesson please have a read of his Article here...


YouTube Video

This video explains 2 of the workflows you can utilise with the IFC Mapping feature.


Nathan - Thank you for being the "advance scout" who brings back news from the frontier and tells us what we can achieve when we go a bit further in our travels. I look forward to seeing your YouTube videos. Eric

The ability of the new scheme mapping in 18 to allow us to push and pull data at multiple levels in the schema tree is opening up all kinds of new workflows for us. So many possibilities and we've only just started to experiment.

A Skewed YouTube Channel? And more IFC-heavy posts? Yes PLEASE!! Keep it up!

Hi Nathan, On a drawing if I want to use codes for my finishes with Labels and create a finishes legend with a Schedule I could use surfaces, however as there is no ID for surfaces (I know there is for BMats)only a name and there is a problem that occurs. Coming from a small office we do not have the expertise in GDL to limit the number of characters in a label so that the label would only display the first few characters in which we could put the code and the finishes legend would be a schedule that would display the whole name. For example; Surface Name is "BR01 - Brick Type 01" Label displays "BR01" (Character limit first four characters) Legend displays "BR01 - Brick Type 01" I had hoped that the Generic Label and IFC properties could fix this but it appears not to be the case. Am I missing something?

Kieran this is where it gets really exciting. You can use IFC Mapping to get a label with an custom IFC parameter that will display only limited text of a Surface using the splitting rule. Have a go it will enable you to label based on the Custom IFC Parameter that you set and you could then set up the second IFC PSET for full Surface name. Nathan.

Nathan, I tried out the splitting today and it worked. Thanks for the tip. I am in agreement that the IFC Mapping is the number one feature of AC18.

Having just converted our system to using IFC mapping we seem to be having serious performance issues? Has anyone else using IFC mapping extensively found this to be a problem?

Glenn, What are you using the mapping for? How big is your project file? There could be a number of factors regarding performance. I personally haven't found any issues to date. Nathan

Hi Nathan Thanks for the reply. We do single residential so file size is only small. We are using the mapping to create our Selection Schedules for the Specification and for labeling. Slowdown only seems to affect the modifying of certain elements (walls, columns) for example, with our custom scheme loaded in IFC, if I change a window ID it takes 25sec, then if I remove the scheme from IFC it takes less than a second. Could it be the way I have created the mapping in our scheme?

Glenn, I suggest that you send your file to your local Graphisoft Reseller for them to forward to GSHQ to review. The issues that you are experiencing are ones that I haven't experienced before and I haven't heard of them happening. By providing the file it will enable GRAPHISOFT to test the file for performance issues and hopefully fix the software or provide advise as to why your file is playing up. Good luck, hope to hear how it goes. Nathan

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