4D BIM for Construction

4D BIM- Setting New Standards

Posted by Sue Dengenis on Mar 4, 2014 10:03:31 PM

4D BIM is the next generation project management, including project planning and scheduling, data analytics and management.  4D is here to stay and growing quickly.  Henry Gantt put the “To Do” list on the calendar and added duration to his chart. CPM added dependencies, creating the power of the network diagram.  4D literally adds vision, for those who want or need to understand project planning and scheduling data.  The ability to visualize your project and analyze the dynamic spatial data on your computer, before you break ground, creates a practice field for the delivery team that is highly engaging and efficient, where team members share the same vision.  In an industry where processes haven’t changed for decades, this is revolutionary and, long overdue! 

Gantt charts date back to 1911 or earlier, CPM dates back to WWII when the Manhattan Project perfected Henry Gantt’s work by adding logical dependencies.  By the mid 1950’s, we started seeing  broader use of CPM by industry and we saw its’ introduction to construction by the early 1960s.  Since then, no major innovations have occurred and construction productivity has continued to steadily decline, until NOW.  Today, there is agreement that 4D BIM is the new standard and it is bringing measurable improvement to the industry.  According to a McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report released in 2012, 74 percent of North American construction firms in the $4 trillion global building industry have adopted BIM in some capacity, supporting the premise that BIM is here to stay.   Consider the difference between reviewing stacks of 2D drawings and design plans and separately stacks of 2D Gantt charts or even the more detailed network diagram and discussing between the two with the delivery team; with 4D BIM, teams are sitting together to review a real time simulation of the project- everyone shares the same vision quickly and efficiently, ideas are discussed and knowledge and experience is shared.  Changes can be made instantly, different approaches can be tested for impacts and clashes can be discovered early in the process.  4D visualization is transforming the entire delivery process.  But software alone doesn’t transform an organization, people and processes must be at the center of this effort.  Commercial construction is complex and rarely a repeatable process, there is no black box technology tool that can simplify and manage the improvement process.  Smart people with innovative tools improve the construction process.  In construction, Planners and Schedulers are at the center of the process, they are a key success factor of the delivery team and should play a key role in technology decision making.

Steve Jobs, from the earliest days at Apple Computer (circa 1976) is quoted as saying “The PC represents freedom. Freedom for the individual to create and see what you are working on while you are working on it, in real time. It is the extension of our imagination.”  There is no argument that the pc has provided us enormous freedom to create as individuals.  However, in construction, great projects and great results come from cooperation of the entire team; from the executives to the laborers.  When hundreds or even thousands of people come together to build a power station or a road or the facilities and infrastructure to host the entire world in London in 2012 or Sochi in 2014; the PC must reach beyond the individuals’ imagination in order to achieve great results.  Great Projects require more than freedom of the individual, they require the experience and cooperation of the team. 4D is an amazing facilitator of this process.

For those new to 4D, here’s how it works: create a CPM schedule, import a 3D design model(s) and link the two to create 4D models or, when the 3D model(s) are available, first use the models in the 4D scheduling software to create the CPM directly from the BIM model.  There are a number of different systems on the market, providing varying levels of true 4D integration.  Look for a tool that maintains the integrity of the project plan, where efficiency and time savings are maximized as projects can be simulated in real time and changes can be made without the need to re-input data to analyze different approaches.  Many systems are little more than movies that help tell the story of the project through the 4D process, but these methods have little value as a management tools because they don’t create or maintain the integrity of the project plans and schedules. 

What are the benefits of this innovative technology?  A number of independent organizations have documented the gains being realized.  A study by the Stanford University Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) on 32 major projects using BIM (Building Information Modelling) indicates that BIM eliminates up to 40 % of the unbudgeted design changes, provides savings of up to 10% of the contract value through static clash detections and provides up to a 7% reduction in project time.   4D dramatically reduces change in the costly and dynamic project delivery processes; its benefits can be enormous.

Change isn’t easy under any circumstance but in today’s fast paced world, change and innovation is essential to sustained success. 4D BIM is setting the new standard, significant improvement is being achieved.  The key is finding the right technology that fills your needs and putting people at the center of the process.  

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