4D BIM for Construction

Are We At A Fork In the Road?

Posted by Tom Dengenis on May 19, 2015 2:13:00 PM

Complexity in engineering, design and construction is now a constant. If we can point to one factor driving complexity it is the new CAD capabilities that 3D modeling enables; the fantastic, the amazing and in some sectors like oil and gas, the monster projects.

        These complexities, when undertaken by the project delivery team, must be managed with techniques and technologies capable of synthesizing enormous amounts of detail into a logical, accurate and validated plan.  The complexity created by the fantastic designs must be tamed by a tenable approach that focuses on quality, transparency and agile project planning which is clearly understood by ALL project participants.    

The visibility and cooperation enabled by 4D planning, much like when radio and television took hold, is transforming project delivery by providing teams the tool they need to proactively and effectively plan and manage the dynamic environment of construction. 

4D planning processes and technology enables real time interactive planning and scheduling control and brings visibility to the entire delivery team, giving the entire supply chain equal access and freedom to become a cooperative participant in the creative discussions required to get project planning done well.  When project designs are created, expectations are clear as to what to build and how much time is available to complete the project but by no means is “how” the project will get done clear until the delivery team plans and schedules the work from day one to handing over the completed project.  It is the scheduler’s responsibility to plan and sequence activities of the project.  This plan will dictate how contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and consultants will cooperate to deliver a successful project.  Today even simple projects have become complex as new constraints are introduced: difficult locations, neighboring property constraints, environmental and safety issues, access, prefabrication, laydown areas…  Before 4D, in the traditional age of project planning which still dominates the market today, industry participants relied on interpreting Henry Gantt’s  charts.  It’s no wonder it is rare for projects to be delivered on time and on budget.  The challenge for construction is not in understanding the design, the challenge is in effectively managing a constantly changing work site.  Over the past decade, project teams that have experienced 4D planning and scheduling techniques have reported dramatic changes.  Why? Because the 4D medium itself, not the perfection of the content it carries, is the focus of the process that opens the door to clear communication and universal understanding (The medium is the message http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message). 

As soon as the delivery team unveils the 4D model, everyone instantly becomes engaged, driving the conversation to a deeper understanding of the proposed project delivery approach.  Of course there will always be unknowns to confront, but there will be significantly fewer unknowns and even fewer unpredictable responses. Words like wallpaper, exclusive, unclear, and forensic are now being replaced by “inclusive, clear, transparent, accountable, validated and innovation” as the words that define the process of construction project planning.

Project delivery teams must plan every day of the project, model and remodel the approach until everyone is willing to deliver the project as one cohesive team, confident that every day the project is safe, productive and trusted.

Teams that bring 4D planning and scheduling processes to the project can experience the clarity of detailed 4D story boards highlighting key moments of the project that help everyone “walk into the future of the job”.  Using their field tablet device allows everyone to see the job, stage by stage and zoom in on the details that each participant needs to see or show from their perspective in order optimize, verify and validate the approach for the project.  Safety Directors are carrying out pre-operations sessions with no site conditions left to chance or misunderstanding. 

Today, the medium of 4D project planning and management, transforms our historically inefficient and unpredictable project delivery process into a transparent, cooperative and reliable process open for all to see and to participate.  When teams accomplish inclusive participation and accountability, a new level of performance and innovation emerge, and we remember what it is that we love about this industry.

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