Formal specification of industry foundation class concepts using engineering ontologies
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Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Facilities Management (FM) involve domains that require a very diverse set of information and model exchanges to fully realize the potential of Building Information Modeling (BIM). Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) provides a neutral and open schema for interoperability. Model View Definitions (MVD) provide a common subset for specifying the exchanges using IFC, but are expensive to build, test and maintain. A semantic analysis of IFC data schema illustrates the complexities of embedding semantics in model views. A software engineering methodology based on formal specification of shared resources, reusable components and standards that are applicable to the AEC-FM industry for development of a Semantic Exchange Module (SEM) structure for IFC schema is adopted for this research. This SEM structure is based on engineering ontologies that are capable of developing more consistent MVDs. In this regard, Ontology is considered as a machine-readable set of definitions that create a taxonomy of classes and subclasses, and relationships between them. Typically, the ontology contains the hierarchical description of important entities that are used in IFC, along with their properties and business rules. This model of an ontological framework, similar to that of Semantic Web, makes the IFC more formal and consistent as it is capable of providing precise definition of terms and vocabulary. The outcome of this research, a formal classification structure for IFC implementations for the domain of Precast/ Prestressed Concrete Industry, when implemented by software developers, provides the mechanism for applications such as modular MVDs, smart and complex querying of product models, and transaction based services, based on the idea of testable and reusable SEMs. It can be extended and also helps in consistent implementation of rule languages across different domains within AEC-FM, making data sharing across applications simpler with limited rework. This research is expected to impact the overall interoperability of applications in the BIM realm.