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Duplicating IFC_entity

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Hello all, I'm currently working on a project that involves exchanging data through the .ifc format. It seems I can't search for three letter words on this forum so forgive me if this is asked already.

I made a symbol of a vshaped column (extruded polygon), I converted this in an ifc entity and gave it a "column" property, so far so good. When I export this single column it works out allright. But when I make duplicates (either through duplicate, or copy-paste), the other columns are not exported, is this a bug? If anyone could help me out? Thanks in advance,


Peter van der Elst

VW2008 Architect SP3, Mac OS X 10.5.6

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I think you're wasting your time trying to get VW to do valid IFC. The same may apply to some other programs, too, but import tests (from VW) run by a friend of a colleague, with several IFC-certified programs (VW is NOT certified) were not exactly convincing.

Apart from that: IFC and symbols are not really conceptually compatible. (Not sure about the actual implementations.) An IFC entity should have a persistent GUID (Global Unique ID): the same GUID in every export. An IFC entity in a symbol? Maybe NNA's IFC export can assign GUIDs, maybe nowadays even persistent ones ? but the last time I tested, the GUIDs changed every time. So much of usefulness...

Maybe you should try NNA's Column object?

Whoops! The Wizard of Tex does not know that concrete columns can have a shape!

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First of all, your best IFC success is going to come with the latest version of Vectorworks, 2009 SP2. Significant engineering effort has gone into the IFC export since the last SP release of 2008.

That said, instead of a extruded polygon, try using the Pillar tool. In a sense, it is an automated Extrude, but has other attributes attached to it behind the scenes. Also, the IFC export should create a GUID for every symbol instance. If not, it is a bug. I know this has been resolved in 2009, I'll have to go back and review the results in 2008 SP3.

The majority of our efforts have gone into a "downstream" workflow, that is, EXPORTING IFC from Vectorworks to an IFC-compatible program. Admittedly, our IMPORTING is NOT at the same level as our export. We are working hard to resolve this issue, but as usual, this takes time.

The persistent GUID issue should have been resolved at this point in the 2009 cycle. I will check with the engineering staff to verify the state of the issue.

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Could someone please pass the salt ? I think I need a pinch with an IFC-related statement by a NNA staff member. There was supposed to be excellent IFC already from VW 12.5! Here and now, I think it was. Including IFC with VS.

Anyway, I agree with the workflow priority. It seems that in most projects at least in Finland IFC is primarily used in coordination and design data are still moved around as DWG.

(Good news about GUIDs!)

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Pillar and Column are two different tools. A Pillar is created from any shape, just as a floor. The Column tool is the one that makes funny Texan assumptions. (Can't remember exactly what; it's not in my workspace, because I've created a much better Column tool and use only that.)

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I am seeing a possible bit of mis-communication here. Do you mean 'V-Shape' in plan or in elevation/section? 'V' in plan is easy with the Pillar tool. 'V' in section elevation needs to be modeled as you suggested.

Please submit a bug with the problem file so we can get engineering to look at the issue.

Petri, until you've seen and used the new column and pilaster tools, stop with YOUR funny assumptions.

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Petri, until you've seen and used the new column and pilaster tools, stop with the YOUR funny assumptions.

OK. Let's try Column, then.

Hmm.... Error has occurred this locked Plug-in...

Line #297: ConvertLength := NUM2STR(xe, l);


{ Error: Identifier not declared. }


{ Error: Expected a string. }


{ Error: Expected , }


{ Error: Expected a string. }

Well, here we are anyway.

No, still useless. No custom shapes for concrete and timber. Not to mention that about 20 other essential features are missing.

Pillar? OK. Nothing to see here.

Pilaster? ?Structural type must be steel? again.

Sorry. These are of no use whatsoever.

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Sorry Petri, but I don't get the same errors. Are you running Fundamentals or Architect/Designer?

If you are running Fundamentals, you will not see all the new features and improved functionality of the Column & Pilaster PIOs.

In Architect/Designer, the Column/Pilaster has an "architectural" component and a "structural" component:

1) The user can select to model/show either or both;

2) Independent sets of parameters manipulate each component, including plan shape and height;

3) The shape of components is no longer restricted to biaxial symmetry, the user can specify plan width and depth, either rectangular or oval;

3) The architectural component can be offset from the structural;

4) The structural component can be rotated independently of the architectural;

5) Architectural and structural components can have independent classes for visualization and organization

6) Top and Base plates can be specified on structural columns

Currently, "Wood" and "Concrete" Struct Types don't have shape symbol selection because they tend to be rectangular sections already handled by the width and depth parameters.

I agree that a "custom" shape option, regardless of Struct Type, would be useful. A nice improvement for a future version.

When using the Column/Pilaster PIOs with IFC export, the "architectural" component is automatically mapped to IfcCovering and the structural component is mapped to IfcColumn, so that they can properly coexist for different applicable conditions.

So instead of whining and being so tritely dismissive, how about stepping up, doing something constructive and share your list of "20 other essential features" that you feel are missing (using a Design Series product, Architect or Designer, would probably help you evaluation)? I would be glad to incorporate the best elements of your list into an engineering task document for a future development cycle.

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I'm not saying that the Column object wouldn't have some nice features (at least nice in a trade show), but as a whole it is useless.

Besides, I don't whine, I just state the facts ? and I'm more than happy to share my findings. Or rather: happy to exchange them to money.

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Again, you only complain and generalize about problems (like the worst of our self-proclaimed "conservative political experts" in the US Media), yet offer no detailed, point by point analysis or rebuttal and no solution to the problem.

So you are saying your input has to be purchased? I wonder how your peers, your fellow VW users, on this board feel about this?

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I would imagine that you are being paid for your work. What do you think the VW users on this board think about that?

I've spent a considerable amount of time developing a column object that meets the needs of Finnish architects, my closest fellow VW users. Done my research, talked with users, had it tested, improved it. Nothing that would be impossible for NNA, should you want to offer actually useful tools.

As comes to VW users outside Finland, I think I'm doing them a service by pointing out that the inadequacies of NNA's tools is not a necessity but a result of decisions made by NNA. I simply don't feel in any way obliged to donate the fruits of my labour to Nemetschek in any shape or form. I believe my peers, fellow VW developers, share this view. Does, say, Computerworks tell you how to do your job?

Anyway, the people I've worked with are extremely disappointed and aggravated of the fact that the tools they've asked for and, yes, helped to develop, are also useless, because NNA refuses to document the creation of IFC entities with VectorScript. Just the other day I spoke with one firm: they've just decided to move to ArchiCAD. Another firm has already moved to Revit.

I have to agree with them: those are wise, informed decisions. (Informed by action and especially non-action by NNA, including the recent lack of response on this board to one of my fellow users on the subject of IFC.)

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Jeffrey, hereby I send you the VW model (just a floor and three columns). I modeled one column, converted it to an ifc entity and duplicated this. When exported the ifc model only has one column instead of three. Only when I manually model all columns everything is exported. So I can't use copy-paste. Hope you can help me out.



PS. Petri, do you have any experience with these kinds of columns in combination with ifc? If so maybe you would be so kind to help me out? I will also contact our local distributor which makes pio's for the dutch market as well. Thanks for all the response!

Edited by Peter van der Elst
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Sorry, Peter ? I don't even try to use IFC with VW; there'd be no point whatsoever. The clients that require IFC, require a certified program to be used. Besides, the objects coming with VW are useless in Finland.

In future, I expect to use only walls and roof faces from NNA's kit, maybe also some other items at least until I have time to program substitutes (stairs are among the ones I need to use.)

Did some testing with your file with VW 2009 (SP 2).

1) As is. Only the floor was imported back to VW, not a single column.

2) Checked ?Use standard properties for this symbol? in the IFC Data dialog. VW crashed while trying to export IFC:

3) In addition to (2), said ?Reset GUID? for each. Export & reimport worked.

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What I find frustrating (and others may as well) is the inclusion of a feature like IFC import that offers 'limited' functionality AND is not accompanied by documenation of its limitations and abilities.

The frustration comes from planning to use a feature...LIKE stair handrails in 2008...not getting acceptable initial results, tweeking and not getting acceptable results, spending hours and not getting acceptable results, and then coming to the techboard to discover a vast history of similar experience.

Please don't think that I'm focused on IFC or the stair tool. These are just easy examples from my personal experience. When I installed a service pack which addressed IFC issues, I used Petri's test from the techboard: export VW to IFC, then import the resulting IFC file back into VW.

The bigger concern wasn't that it didn't work. It was that it didn't "not work" in a consistent manner.

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I have tested in VW2009 and the problem is resolved, as follows:

1) Create a hybrid symbol with desired 2D and 3D geometry

2) Place symbol in as many locations as wanted/needed

3) Select each symbol and select command "IFC Data..."

4) Select IfcColumn and desired Psets.


1) create symbol

2) place one symbol

3) select "IFC Data..." command

4) select IfcColumn and desired Psets

5) copy symbol where needed

6) for each new copy, open IFC Data... command and Reset GUID.

Either method will create a valid IFC model from VW2009.

Obviously it would be easier if the user did not have to work so hard to attach IFC data to each non-PIO entity. Native VW Plug-in Objects (PIOs) have their GUIDs handled automatically by the IFC export plug-in. There is obviously some engineering work to be done...

Edited by Jeffrey W Ouellette
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The ability to create arbitrary IFC entities is, in this respect, one of VW's best features and greatest assets in the future (if any.) Having said that, yes, it is quite pointless to require the user to attach the standard property set if and when he or she has nothing specific to say.

(By arbitrary I mean that one can create the geometry with any means and then at the end decide what it will be. The workarounds users of some competing programs are resorting to are hilarious. However, there are pitfalls...)

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