4D BIM for Construction

Is Gaming Visualization the Key to Construction Planning, Scheduling and Project Controls?

Posted by Tom Dengenis on Jun 15, 2017 6:12:00 PM

A stunning visualisation of a project will always have an impact, whether at the pitch phase or communicating during project delivery, and choosing a tool which can deliver is a high priority. We are often asked about the difference between Synchro Software and other 4D animation tools in the market, for example those driven by gaming engines, especially since some of them claim to facilitate “new and improved” more efficient project management. Typically, their approach is to input or import task names along with their start date and finish date and apply those four data elements to their visualisation to create something “4D”. 

If all you want is a glossy animation this will serve your purposes, however if your interest is to improve your project delivery, then you will need more than glossy animations and “something 4D”.

To understand this we should go back 100 years to Mr. Henry Gantt, who proposed much the same graphical display from the input of the project planner back in 1915.  His new idea at that time was to write the list of tasks in rows down one column and plot their time from start to finish on a calendar or days that ran across the top of the chart, row by row, date by date. Back then his technique was for sure “new and improved” over simply listing tasks as a means of creating a production plan and communicating the project schedule to management.  However, by the early 1960's the construction industry recognized that Gantt charts - plotting task bars on a chart with start and finish dates - was simply not good enough for the growing demands of construction and the increase in project complexity. 

The complexity of construction has continued to grow over the past 100 years. The call for improvement in the 1960's pointed directly to the logical diagram, where task, duration and logical dependencies calculated and structured how complex projects could best be organised for planning, scheduling and controls.  The logical dependency method derives task start and finish dates based on the complex calculation of the basic input of individual task names, each duration and the known logical dependencies between tasks.  For the most part, the only known start and finish date is the project start and finish as defined by the contract.  The basic logical diagram method defined for complex projects, and adopted by the construction industry, has gradually taken over and is now the dominant method used by global constructors who control the commanding heights of the construction industry. 

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Does CPM as implemented since the 1960s need improvement for tackling project complexity and is it time for more than an advanced calculator? 

Clearly there is room for improvement, project failure statistics and productivity declines show us that something needs to change.  With the evolution of digital technology and advanced graphics displays, today the industry is beginning to migrate from the limitations of common charts and graphs of Critical Path Method (CPM) absent any and all design and physical spatial site condition information to true 4D scheduling. The improvement is to add 3D visual data that defines the project to the CPM engine; not to simply add data elements from the CPM to the 3D model.

At Synchro, the evolution towards a fully-integrated, real-time visual solution is powered by combining the visual content of the 3D design models and the advanced mathematics of CPM. Constructors joining this wave should be wary of adapted gaming engines or other animation solutions that promise project management capabilities but only deliver basic 4D views of the model based solely on a few data elements. These so called modern 4D viewers are not any better than saying Gantt charts are also modern technology but are realy many decades out-of-date for the complex demands of modern digital construction.

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