Skip to main content Accessibility help

IfcOWL: A case of transforming EXPRESS schemas into ontologies

  • Jakob Beetz (a1), Jos van Leeuwen (a1) and Bauke de Vries (a1)


Ontologies have been successfully applied as a semantic enabler of communication between both users and applications in fragmented, heterogeneous multinational business environments. In this paper we discuss the underlying principles, their current implementation status, and most importantly, their applicability to problems in the building information modeling domain. We introduce the development of an ontology for the building and construction sector based on the industry foundation classes. We discuss several approaches of lifting modeling information that is based on the express family of languages for data modeling onto a logically rigid and semantically enhanced ontological level encoded in the W3C Ontology Web Language. We exemplify the added value of such formal notation of building models by providing several examples where generic query and reasoning algorithms can be applied to problems that otherwise have to be manually hard-wired into applications for processing building information. Furthermore, we show how the underlying resource description framework and the set of technologies evolving around it can be tailored to the need of distributed collaborative work in the building and construction industry.



Hide All
Adachi, Y. (2003). Overview of partial model query language. Proc. ISPE Conf. Concurrent Engineering 2003, pp. 549555.
Arenas, M., Perez, J., & Gutierrez, C. (2006). Semantics and complexity of SPARQL. Proc. 5th Int. Semantic Web Conf. (ISWC06), pp. 3043.
ARQ (2005). ARQ—a SPARQL processor for Jena. Accessed at on August 2007.
Augenbroe, G. (1994). An overview of the COMBINE project. Proc. 1st European Conf. Product and Process Modeling in the Building Industry ECPPM'94, p. 547.
Baader, F., Calvanese, D., McGuinness, D., Nardi, D., & Patel-Schneider, P. (2003). The Description Logic Handbook: Theory, Implementation, and Applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bechhofer, S., van Harmelen, F., Hendler, J., et al. (2004). OWL Web Ontology Language Reference. W3C Recommendation. Accessed at on October 7, 2007.
Beetz, J., de Vries, B., & van Leeuwen, J.P. (2007). RDF-based distributed functional part specifications for the facilitation of service-based architectures. Proc. 24th W78 Conf. Maribor 2007, pp. 183188.
Berners-Lee, T. (1998). Notation 3 (N3): A Readable RDF Syntax. Technical Report World Wide Web Consortium, 1998–2006. Accessed at on August 2007.
Björk, B. (1994). RATAS Project—developing an infrastructure for computer-integrated construction. Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering 8 ( 4), 401419.
Böhms, M., Bonsma, P., Bourdeau, M., Pascual, E., Storer, G., & Sedano, J. (2006). “Semantic Web”-based product modelling: ontologies and configurators. In Exploiting the Knowledge Economy: Issues, Applications and Case Studies (Cunningham, P., & Cunningham, M., Eds.), pp. 10991107. Amsterdam: IOS Press.
Borrmann, A., Schraufstetter, S., van Treeck, C., & Rank, E. (2007). An octree-based implementation of directional operators in a 3D spatial query language for building information models. Proc. 24th W78 Conf. Maribor.
Brickley, D., & Guha, R. (2004, February 10). RDF Vocabulary description language 1.0: RDF schema W3C recommendation. Accessed at
Broekstra, J., & Kampman, A. (2003). SeRQL: a second generation RDF query language. Proc. SWAD—Europe Workshop on Semantic Web Storage and Retrieval.
Chen, P.P. (1976). The entity-relationship model—toward a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems 1 ( 1), 936.
Corcho, O., Fernández-López, M., & Gómez-Pérez, A. (2003). Methodologies, tools and languages for building ontologies. Where is their meeting point? Data & Knowledge Engineering 46 ( 1), 4164.
Dolenc, M., Katranuschkov, P., Gehre, A., Kurowski, K., & Turk, Z. (2007). The InteliGrid platform for virtual organisations interoperability. ITcon 12, 459477.
Drummond, N., Rector, A., Stevens, R., Moulton, G., Horridge, M., Wang, H., & Seidenberg, J. (2006). Putting OWL in order: patterns for sequences in OWL. Proc. 2nd OWL Experiences and Directions Workshop, Athens.
Edmonds, B., & Bryson, J.J. (2004). The insufficiency of formal design methods—the necessity of an experimental approach for the understanding and control of complex MAS. Proc. Third Int. Joint Conf. Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, pp. 938945.
Gielingh, W. (1988). General AEC reference model (GARM) an aid for the integration of application specific product definition models. Proc. CIB W74 + W78 Workshop, pp. 165178.
Gruber, T. (1993). A translation approach to portable ontology specifications. Knowledge Acquisition 5 ( 2), 199220.
Gutierrez, C., Hurtado, C., & Vaisman, A. (2005). Temporal RDF. Proc. 2nd European Semantic Web Conf. (ESWC ’05), pp. 93107.
Hietanen, J. (2006). IFC Model View Definition Format, Technical Report. International Alliance for Interoperability.
Horrocks, I., Patel-Schneider, P.F., & van Harmelen, F. (2003). From SHIQ and RDF to OWL: the making of a Web Ontology Language. Web Semantics: Science, Services and Agents on the World Wide Web 1 ( 1), 726.
Huang, Z., & Stuckenschmidt, H. (2005). Reasoning with multi-version ontologies: a temporal logic approach. Int. Semantic Web Conf., pp. 398412.
IDEF1x. (1993). Integration Definition for Information Modeling (IDEF1x). FIPS Publication 184, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
ISO. (2007). ISO10303-28:2007. Industrial Automation Systems and Integration—Product Data Representation and Exchange. Part 28: Implementation Methods: XML Representations of EXPRESS Schemas and Data, Using XML Schemas. Geneva: ISO.
Karvounarakis, G., Alexaki, S., Christophides, V., Plexousakis, D., & Scholl, M. (2002). RQL: a declarative query language for RDF. Proc. 11th Int. Conf. World Wide Web, pp. 592603. New York: ACM Press.
Lassila, O., & McGuinness, D. (2001). The role of frame-based representation on the Semantic Web. Linköping Electronic Articles in Computer and Information Science 6.
, M., Mohus, F., Kvarsvik, O., & Lie, M. (2006). The HITOS project—a full scale IFC test. Proc. ECPPM 2006.
Lee, E.C., & Sacks, R. (2006). Generating IFC VIEWs and conformance classes using GTPPM. Proc. 11th Int. Conf. Computing in Civil and Building Engineering ICCCBE-XI, pp. 17151724.
Lima, C., El-Diraby, T., & Stephens, J. (2005). Ontology-based optimisation of knowledge management in e-Construction. ITcon 10, 305327.
McGuinness, D., Fikes, R., Hendler, J., & Stein, L. (2002). DAML+ OIL: an ontology language for the Semantic Web. Intelligent Systems 17 ( 5), 7280.
Minsky, M. (1975). A framework for representing knowledge. In The Psychology of Computer Vision (Winston, P., Ed.), pp. 211277. New York: McGraw–Hill.
Nijssen, G., & Halpin, T. (1989). Conceptual Schema and Relational Database Design: A Fact Oriented Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice–Hall.
OSExpress. (2001). Project homepage. Accessed at on August 2007.
Parr, T., & Quong, R. (1995). ANTLR: a predicated-LL(k) parser generator. Software—Practice and Experience 25 ( 7), 789810.
Schenck, D., & Wilson, P. (1994). Information Modeling: The EXPRESS Way. New York: Oxford University Press.
Seidenberg, J., & Rector, A. (2006). Web ontology segmentation: analysis, classification and use. WWW ’06: Proc. 15th Int. Conf. World Wide Web, pp. 1322. New York: ACM Press.
Sowa, J. (2000). Knowledge Representation: Logical, Philosophical, and Computational Foundations. Pacific Grove, CA: MIT Press.
Spyns, P., Meersman, R., & Jarrar, M. (2002). Data modeling versus ontology engineering. ACM SIGMOD Record 31, 1217.
Uschold, M., & King, M. (1995). Towards a methodology for building ontologies. Proc. Workshop on Basic Ontological Issues in Knowledge Sharing in Conjunction With IJCAI95, Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute, University of Edinburgh.
van Leeuwen, J.P., & Fridqvist, S. (2003). Object version control for collaborative design—characteristics of the concept-modelling framework. E-Activities in Building Design and Construction—9th EuropIA Int. Conf. (Tunçer, B., Özsariyildiz, S.S., & Sariyildiz, S., Eds.), pp. 129139. Paris: EuropIA Productions.
Weise, M., Katranuschkov, P., & Scherer, R.J. (2003). Generalised model subset definition schema. Proc. CIB-W78 Conf. 2003—Information Technology for Construction. Accessed at
Wix, J., Christensen, L., Mohus, F., Stangeland, B., & Espedokken, K. (2005). A framework of information for construction—creating an industry-wide enterprise architecture for building information modeling use. Proc. 6th European Conf. Product and Process Modelling, pp. 665671, Valencia, Spain, September 13–15.
Woods, W.A. (1975). What's in a link: foundations for semantic networks. In Representation and Understanding: Studies in Cognitive Science (Bobrow, D., & Collins, A., Eds.), pp. 3582. New York: Academic Press.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

IfcOWL: A case of transforming EXPRESS schemas into ontologies

  • Jakob Beetz (a1), Jos van Leeuwen (a1) and Bauke de Vries (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.