4D BIM for Construction


Posted by Pawel Krecz on Aug 30, 2016 12:35:05 AM

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

// Winston Churchill

What is wrong with the definition of Project Management?

I read several definitions of Project Management available in the professional publications and I noticed that there is no mention of project problems. And if they are mentioned, the context is immaterial.

To my surprise the same professional literature suggests that ‘problems can be identified in a timely manner during project execution (monitoring and controlling) to allow corrective actions’.

Isn’t that too late? What if we could and should identify major problems and opportunities at the earlier stages of the project cycle (I am thinking during the planning process in the cycle)?

Project and problems solving

Tom Dengenis once told me: ‘project is a series of problems that get solved’. Oh, how I like this!

All of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, gained your experience and enriched your knowledge by observing and solving problems that you have encountered during your challenging careers.

For me project management is nothing else but constant problems solving. Some people suggest to use word ‘challenge’ instead of ‘problem’. In my opinion this is just another manipulative attempt to shift the importance of problems solving to some distant areas. It seems like humanity is losing the ability to solve problems altogether!

When project managers say or hear ‘we have a problem’, it should be no surprise that the problem with be one or combination of those:

  • Delay (because of something that could have been predicted)
  • Clash (because of something that could have been detected)
  • Rework (because of something that could have been prevented)
  • Extra money needed to mitigate (something that could have been avoided)
  • Discovered ‘new’ circumstances (that actually were ‘old’, forgotten project constraints)
  • Accident (that could have been prevented)

Project teams cannot simply prepare and wait for those situations to happen – their ultimate goal is to prevent them!

I strongly believe that using 4D models can help to achieve this goal but project teams must be ready to accept the change now to become future-proof.


It is difficult NOT to detect the schedule issues with 4D simulations. If the sequence is wrong, we will see it. If we miss it, we can programme 4D model to detect issues automatically (e.g. with use of basic 3D geometry, symbolic links and smart parameters).

Drawing resource graphs from parametrically designed 3D objects (quantities) and analysing them will help us to understand what the limitations are, so we can prepare enough space, equipment and crews to deliver and build ‘the stuff’. If we cannot secure extra resources, we must plan more conservatively.

Clash and conflict?

This could be anything really:

  • Welder crew working in the wrong area at the wrong time (e.g. above the uncured concrete)
  • Tower crane arm operating above the offices
  • Work space clashing with the pedestrian route
  • Pipes clashing with the steel structure
  • Not enough space to fit the valve

All those can be detected in 4D model (both statically and dynamically, in space-time). Planners can work closely with designers on this. Better detected and solved earlier on the computer screens than later on site. And it is cheaper.


What project can afford long list of snags, faults and quality failures? Almost all work and individual method statements can be accurately measured from the model, quantified, simulated and tested. The best scenario, once accepted, should be rehearsed by the project team and the workforce. Rehearse often, to see more from different angles. It will be easier on site and no rework needed.

Extra money needed to mitigate?

There is no such a thing as extra money. On the project, it is called ‘loss’. Project managers should really start linking risks to 4D models to be able to visualise them. Risk in the file register is such an easy item to forget. Visualised risk is not that easy to forget. Same with opportunities – those can really produce some ‘extra money’ (to spend elsewhere?)

Discover ‘New’ circumstances?

Monitor resources and constrains strictly and do know when and where they are at any given point in space-time, so there are no surprises! 4D models offer many different tools to do it better than it was done so far.


Modelling everything that project touches (project & site; existing > temporary > phasing > permanent, etc.) and simulating in space-time will create a real model of the real project. All safety issues detected in this process will also be real. This will create a solid foundation of information for the safety briefings, site inductions and accident prevention.

Opportunity for the industry

With the daybreak of BIM technology industry gained perfect opportunity to engage project management efforts in new ways. BIM models became:

  • an important source of information,
  • foundation for collaborative interactions and communication,
  • immediate tool for improved project processes.

Anyone knowingly missing this opportunity will stuck in a space-time, where things are moving slower and less efficiently day to day.

4D models, visual planning and other BIM techniques address project problems in a simpler and clearer form, effectively triggering human perception and analytical thinking.

The ability to see (understand problems) ultimately leads to act (solve problems).

Solving space-time, quality, resource and cost related problems effectively, managers have a strong ability to make better decisions faster, steer the project in the right direction, mitigate risks, optimise workflows and reduce wastage.

Next week: Week 5 - Synchro PRO and Contract Management

Thanks for reading,


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