Digitization of building systems using IFC to support performance analysis and code checking: standard limits and technological barriers. A case study on fire safety

The study presented in this paper is part of a digitization project developed for the University of Padua. It aims at demonstrating how IFC (Internet Foundation Classes) ISO Standard can be used as a reliable data model to support Performance Analysis (PA) and code checking for construction disciplines. Fire Safety Engineering (FSE) is analyzed as a challenging test field because it highly affects different building aspects and highlights interoperability issues. The methodology proposed in the study consists in checking a digital approach to PA based on information classes that can express both users’ requirements and performance specification of technical elements to develop computational code checking. This method is developed by creating virtual classes representing built systems and using relation classes and performance attributes to check if technical elements fulfil users’ requirements. By forcing the model to be based on standardized information classes, the study verifies if IFC, as an ISO standard, can be used as a universal and scalable reference model for performance analysis and code checking. More specifically, the study focuses on the availability of IFC’s information classes and attributes that define a PA model. This research verifies the achievement of the proposed goals for FSE (Section 2) and then highlights the interoperability limits that affect an IFC-based approach to computational FSE code checking (Section 3). Finally, the technical feasibility of the methodology’s market implementation is presented (Section 4). The study’s innovative approach is related to the fact that IFC is often analyzed as an information exchange format, not as a data model, where standardized relations between building ontologies can be simulated. Digital ontologies of relational aspects are experimented with by following this approach. These reports support code conformance analyses of the technical element performance specification. The study then indicates how the information modelling discipline could be shaped to encourage standardized code checking better.


The research is part of UniONE: a project for the digiti­zation of the built Asset of the University of Padua.

Authors contribution

M.G. Donatiello: analysis on IFC data model in relation to spatial containment, functional systems and relation classes. A. Gabbanoto: analysis on FSE code checking based on IFC classes. C. Zanchetta: definition of IFC based procedures, text editing. R. Paparella: project co­ordinator, text revision.


Internal funds of the University of Padua.