A method to generate a modular ifcOWL ontology

Walter Terkaj, Pieter Pauwels

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Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Semantic Web technologies are becoming more and more popular in the Architecture Engineering Construction (AEC) and Facilities Management (FM) industry to support information management, information exchange and data interoperability. One of the key integration gateways between BIM and Semantic Web is represented by the ifcOWL ontology, i.e. the Web Ontology Language (OWL) version of the IFC standard, being one of reference technical standard for AEC/FM. Previous studies have shown how a recommended ifcOWL ontology can be automatically generated by converting the IFC standard from the official EXPRESS schema. However, the resulting ifcOWL is a large monolithic ontology that presents serious limitations for real industrial applications in terms of usability and performance (i.e. querying and reasoning). Possible enhancements to reduce the complexity and the data size consist in (1) modularization of ifcOWL making it easier to use subsets of the entire ontology, and (2) rethinking the contents and structure of an ontology for AEC/FM to better fit in the semantic web scope and make its usage more efficient. The second approach can be enabled by the first one, since it would make it easier to replace some of the ifcOWL modules with new optimized ontologies for the AEC-FM industry. This paper focuses on the first approach presenting a method to automatically generate a modular ifcOWL ontology. The method aims at minimizing the dependencies between modules to better exploit the modularization. The results are compared with simpler and more straight-forward solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJOWO 2017 The Joint Ontology Workshops
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Joint Ontology Workshops 2017 Episode 3: The Tyrolean Autumn of Ontology
EditorsStefano Borger, Oliver Kutz, Frank Loebe, Fabian Neuhaus
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event8th International Workshop on Formal Ontologies meet Industry: Episode 3: The Tyrolean Autumn of Ontology - Bolzano, Italy
Duration: 21 Sept 201723 Sept 2017
Conference number: 8


Workshop8th International Workshop on Formal Ontologies meet Industry
Abbreviated titleFOMI
Internet address

Bibliographical note

ugent:id 8578707 ugent:classification C1


  • IFC
  • IfcOWL
  • Modularization
  • Ontology


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