4D BIM for Construction

Five Things To Know When Evaluating 4D Construction Software

Posted by Sue Dengenis on Oct 16, 2015 1:00:00 PM

The number of new technologies entering the construction market is radily expanding.  Some of these new products (and old ones for that matter) work fairly well, some make big promises but little impact, some actually make matters worse and some…… will revolutionize the industry.  4D scheduling and planning is one technology that has been around for a few years and its impact is growing dramatically. 4D is being used on all types of construction around the world and its value is driven by transparency and cooperation. If you haven’t dug into the details yet, you should, and soon.  Here are some things you should consider when evaluating 4D products.

Not ALL 4D is created equal.

Top Five things to know:

  1. Can you import all your design file types and is there a limit to file size?

 There is no 4D without a design- either in 2D or preferably 3D. For maximum flexibility, it is important that your 4D software interoperates with your CAD software so you can efficiently import your design and design data to create your 4D model.  Understand file type compatibility and what data transfers with the 3D model on import. The more data the better.  

    2.  Does the 4D software have full scheduling capabilities? 

 Very few 4D software includes a scheduling functionality but it is critical.  Without a full scheduling capability, you are only viewing one scenario, there is no ability to add tasks, make changes, or to optimize your plan. There is 4D to VIEW and 4D to DO- know the difference.  If your only goal is to create an animation, then software without a scheduling capability is fine- just know what you are getting.  The big value of 4D comes from its ability to review, re-sequence, run “what if” scenarios, optimize, rehearse, and track your project.  Trying to plan inside a 4D viewer will leave you with no hair and no satisfaction, it often leads to bigger problems downstream so beware- know what you want 4D VIEW OR 4D DO.  4D DO delivers integrity in the data. 

“There is a real danger in "speedy over-automation" in that it assumes the data coming in (especially from the schedule) is correct, which it almost always is not. 4D is really about PLANNING, and effective planning requires a high involvement of collaboration. When automation is overused frequently the process of engagement is reduced, and that can be quite dangerous when problems are discovered too far down the line.” 

If you want 4D DO- understand what method of scheduling is used and the software’s interoperability with other scheduling software if you plan to import and export your schedules. 

    3.  Does the 4D software offer dynamic clash detection for space and time?

 Design clashes can be identified with a number of products including Navisworks and Solibiri.  It is important to run design clash detection but it is equally, if not more important, to run clash detection for the hundreds or thousands of activities that may overlap in space or time which are not identified by design clash detection.  True 4D software can identify clashes in a particular space over time including all resources: human, material, equipment or temporary works. This can be a source of significant savings.

    4.  Can you track progress in the 4D model?

Can progress be monitored and reported, can you view planned versus actual progress side by side in a viewpoint AND in a simulation?  A 4D schedule delivers value throughout the project lifecycle. Use a simulation to conduct project meetings, look aheads, safety briefings, training and more. 

    5.  How will you be supported if you buy the software? 

 Anyone in this business knows there is a big issue with software support.  For the most part, there is little construction expertise at the big software companies so there is a lack of understanding about how to best overcome industry challenges and to establish best practice workflows.  Know where the software company derives the bulk of its revenue- that is where it will focus both its support and its R&D.  If construction doesn’t have a seat at the strategy table then don’t expect much.  Some companies offer little to no support when you run into difficulty, others have built their reputation on highly responsive one on one support- know what you will get before you need it!

Once you narrow it down: here are the finer points:

  • How long does it take to import a file, once imported how long does it take to open a file?   (It will depend on file size so test your own file)
  • Can you federate multiple models of different file types into one master model?
  • Can you create path movements for equipment and people easily and efficiently?
  • Can you cut or slice design objects inside of the 3D model so you don’t have to go back to the architect or designer. If you plan as you will construct, your 3D model should be designed as it will be constructed- this hasn't yet become status quo so know what ability you have to make your own changes- in some cases this is literally a few clicks of the mouse.
  • Can you track costs and report on earned value?
  • If you have a contract requirement to provide a project schedule in a certain format such as P6, can you export and sync schedule updates back to P6 to meet your contract requirements?
  • How easy is it to use the software and what training options are available?
  • Does the scheduling functionality provide for production planning?
  • Can you track resource utilization?
  • What is the company’s history of updates for the product- is there a record of continuous innovation or is product development lagging?
  • Is there a FREE viewer for project stakeholders to access the project, does it offer controlled access?
  • Is there a corporate license pricing plan?

The pace of change and new technology in construction is continuing to increase.  It’s important for companies to have a technology strategy.  4D is one platform on which many companies have chosen to build their strategy but whatever strategy you choose, the best advice is “Just get started”, waiting is only putting you farther back in the pack. 

For information on Synchro PRO 4D Scheduling and Construction Project Management Software visit: https://synchroltd.com/


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