How To: Convert IFC data with the Data Interoperability extension


Industry Foundation Class (IFC) data is open-source and can be viewed or converted to Esri formats using the Data Interoperability extension. Given the complexity and size of the data, some methods for filtering the layers which contain data and determining the extent for features in the data are essential. The IFC data format is frequently used to create detailed drawings of buildings, so the area of the data is usually small, like a single building's footprint, and not a city.

An IFC file contains layers of data, for example: inside walls, outside walls, windows, and doors. It may include items such as plumbing, electrical, and other construction details within the file.


IFC files can be large in size, so some best practices for managing the datasets are necessary. Follow the steps below when working with a new IFC file to extract meaningful data from the file.

  1. Create an Interoperability Connection to the IFC file in a separate ArcCatalog window (open the ArcCatalog application in Windows.)
  2. If no data displays after setting Parameters, change the value for Use Deprecated Reader from No to Yes. For older IFC files, the Deprecated Reader must be used to read the data.
  3. After creating the connection to the data layers in the file, close ArcCatalog.
  4. Open ArcMap with a new, empty map, and open the Catalog sidebar.
  5. Refresh the Interoperability Connection to the IFC file in ArcCatalog. This eliminates some layers that do not contain any features in the IFC file.
  6. In the ArcMap window, click the Add Data button, navigate to the Interoperability Connection, and add the existing feature classes to the map. Skip over feature classes that are marked No Geometry, as well as any tables that appear in the list.
  7. When the available feature types have been added to ArcMap, go to View > Data Frame Properties > General tab and set Map Units and Display Units to Meter.
  8. Watch the lower-left corner of the ArcMap window where the name of the layer ArcMap is drawing on screen is displayed to view the layers that contain data. Right-click the data frame name (Layers) and check Turn all layers off. Afterward, check one or two layer names that were drawn in the ArcMap window.
  9. Keep only the layers that contain data, as noted in the previous step. Remove all other layers from the Layers list.
  10. Right-click one of the layers, and navigate to Selection > Select All. This step takes some time.
  11. When the selection process is finished, in the top bar of the ArcMap window, click Selection > Zoom to selected features, to zoom into the area where the data is drawn.
  12. Right-click one of the two layers above, go to the Properties > Source tab, and determine a reasonable extent for the data. The data may be in a known coordinate system but may also be created using local coordinates.
  13. Use either the Data Interoperability Quick Import tool or a Spatial ETL tool to import the data from the IFC file to a file geodatabase. If the data is in a known coordinate system (which can be determined by examining the coordinate extent of the data), define the projection as part of the import process. Additional information on this topic is available in Knowledge Base article 000007880.

Please note that this data is 3D, and the converted data displays best in either ArcScene or ArcGIS Pro in a 3D Scene. Once the data is converted to a file geodatabase, the data draws in a few seconds in ArcScene or ArcGIS Pro 3D.

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