4D BIM for Construction

4D Construction Software: Some Metrics

Posted by Sue Dengenis on Aug 20, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Let’s face it, 4D construction animations have become the norm among leaders in the construction industry- pretty much everyone uses them to some degree- high-rise towers, industrial plants, oil & gas refineries, roads, bridges, global companies and small consultants.  Not so long ago animations differentiated companies from the competition, not so much anymore.  Today, competitive advantage is being gained by embracing 4D as a strategy for process improvement and as a means to lean construction.  Why?  Because it works.  In fact, it works incredibly well.  People who dig in and invest the time to understand 4D and, who are open to a transparent process, immediately recognize that animations are quick and easy but they are not the end goal.  When 4D is used day in and day out to manage projects, the real value emerges.   

Making an animation is fairly simple, link your schedule to the 3D model and produce an avi.  4D can then be put to work for the entire delivery team.  The computer becomes a practice field where entire teams review, discuss and edit the plan, in real time.  True 4D scheduling technology allows the impacts to be seen immediately as they ripple through the plan, there is no need to re-enter data for each scenario.  Scenarios can be run over and over until the schedule is synchronized and optimized. The process is quick, effective and engaging. It begins before you ever reach the site and continues until the project is complete.  Imagine watching a short 2 minute simulation of a project phase where logistics, space and resources can all be identified for each moment in time, in as much detail as required.  Try that with a Gantt chart and a stack of plans-very inefficient and ineffective.  (Itis also innfective using 4D that doesn’t provide scheduling capabilities.) 

4D visability allows everyone to see the exact same process, no imagination required.  The ability to see, review and discuss details engages the delivery team, everyone shares knowledge and learns from each other, unique organization knowledge is created.  When you get to the site and real construction begins, you know that you have minimized risk, improved productivity and saved time and money by identifying and resolving issues early in the planning phase.  The engagement and team learning that occurs in this process is truly remarkable.  Time and time again, I hear from Synchro users, as word spreads in a company that 4D is helping in one area, more and more people want to participate.  As more people get involved, the learning transfer grows.  This creates a cycle of continuous improvement and everyone benefits: VDC teams, planners and schedulers, estimators, superintendents, project managers, executive leadership, subcontractors, consultants- because it enables them to perform better.

How are companies analyzing technology options and making a case for change?  The metrics continue to emerge and the results are impressive but in some instances measurement isn’t exactly straightforward. How do you measure a safer or higher quality project? Last month Mortenson Construction published a detailed study on the results of their use of Virtual Design and Construction on 18 projects. Mortenson_VDC_study A few of the metrics include:


These results make the investment in technology easy to justify.  So how do you get started, how do 4D products compare? There are a number of 4D products on the market, some focus on “Hollywood” type animations with no real scheduling functionality, however the biggest benefits are achieved from fully functional 4D advanced CPM scheduling that can be used to manage a project throughout its duration.  Be sure you know what you are looking for from 4D so you can properly compare products.   A few items to consider include:

  1. Are you looking for 4D scheduling or will one time animations suffice?
  2. Does the software enable you to quickly run unlimited “what if” scenarios?
  3. If the 3D design model doesn’t match the construction schedule (for example one foundation but 4 pours) does the software give you control over the CAD to cut and subdivide or do you have to go back to the architect for changes- more time and money.
  4. Does the software enable you to plan “space” as a resource- many conflicts arise out of an overutilization of space- are plumbers and electricians scheduled to be in the same room at the same time?  Can you identify lay-down areas and crane halos?
  5. Is there both static and dynamic clash testing that tests for conflicts every moment of the project rather specific short intervals?

There are major differences in the products currently on the market and you need to try them to see if they achieve your objectives.

Yes, the pace of change has increased as companies are under pressure to do more with less.  4D is a process that engages team members and allows everyone who participates to perform better.  This helps to explain why so many statistics on 4D concur- the greater the 4D engagement, the bigger the benefits.  In the words of one advanced 4D user: “our team is drunk on the improvement 4D has made in our process- we want to do more and more.”  If you would like information on Synchro PRO 4D scheduling and project management software visit: https://synchroltd.com/ or contact marketing@synchroltd.com.  

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