4D BIM: Five ways it can transform your project

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What is 4D BIM (construction sequencing)?

A while ago, we talked in detail about the significant benefits of 5D BIM for the construction industry. Today, it is time to dig deeper into how 4D BIM can revolutionise the building process.

4D BIM, also known as construction sequencing, could be described as the process of adding an extra layer of scheduling data to a project information model. This additional dimension of information can be added to different project components which will be built as the construction process develops. In that way, a step-by-step visualisation of the project’s progress is enabled.

In other words, 4D BIM facilitates the visualisation of each project stage through the combination of 3D models with the project schedule in place. Like that, stakeholders are able to acquire a detailed overview of the entire process and stay on top of everything that happens (or is about to happen) on site.

4D BIM, also known as construction sequencing, could be described as the process of adding an extra layer of scheduling data to a project information model.

Simply put, 4D BIM can be extremely beneficial both for managing people and materials on the field. The reason is that it involves time-related data which can be linked to various information model components.

Thanks to this, the numerous interdependencies with other elements or work areas of the project are properly visualised and allow for a construction process where all stakeholders are well-informed and prepared for everything that’s coming next.

The incorporation of time-related information can provide stakeholders with an accurate depiction of the way in which the building structure and the field will (or should) look like in every step of the process. This can boost productivity and push for a safer and more straightforward planning process.

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The logical and more efficient sequencing of tasks on the construction site can be a true game-changer in terms of budget for construction projects. To be more specific, the early illustration of the upcoming project phases could allow for valuable feedback which could reduce rework rates and minimise delays.

It’s important to underline that the advent of 4D BIM doesn’t signify that planners are no longer a substantial part of the project. To the contrary, with the help of 4D BIM they can do their job with higher precision. Instead of building programmes as the proposals are unfolded, planners have now the opportunity to form proposals at a much earlier phase in a project. By trusting digital workflows, planners can play their own role in transforming the building process.

Five powerful benefits of 4D BIM

By now, it is evident that 4D BIM (construction sequencing) can be the catalyst for an essential change in the way we design, manage and develop construction projects. It is no exaggeration to claim that it can be a sneak peek to the future of the sector.
In an effort to add more clarity on how 4D BIM can be beneficial for your project, we present below five ways in which it can change the way you work on the field for the better:

1. Planning

First and foremost, 4D BIM can be valuable in terms of scheduling and planning. In a sentence, it can lock ambiguity and uncertainty out of your project. How can it achieve that? The answer is through a digital workflow.

Based on the addition of scheduling data to the project information model, construction stakeholders can have an exhaustive image of the project from design to completion at a very early stage. The detailed illustration of the project’s development can help the management team to prevent mistakes, detect clashes and re-adjust their plan according to the newly added information.

We are referring, then, to a building process where every project agent is always at least one step ahead of what’s happening on-site. On top of that, there is a clear understanding of what’s coming next and what are the imminent needs. In that manner, everyone is confident that the right tools and materials will be on the field at the right time, and that nobody will have to wander around the site without purpose.

2. All trades on the same page

Keeping everybody up-to-date with the latest changes in a construction project is harder than it may sound. As a result, in many cases endless meetings and countless hours on the phone are parts of the daily life on the field and the office.

4D BIM can provide valuable assistance with minimising the number and the duration of these meetings. Thanks to the visualisation of the project’s progress that 4D BIM models offer things become much more straightforward when the numerous stakeholders are coming together in order to exchange ideas and discuss the current development of the project.

It goes without saying that this stronger connection between the site and the back-office in conjunction with a better understanding between the various project agents can minimise disputes, as well.

3. Project monitoring

Regardless of a project’s type and size, keeping a close eye on everything that happens on-site can be really tough. Especially when we refer to large-scale construction, this can practically be impossible.

That’s because there are simply too many aspects of the building process that should be taken into account before a project manager can claim that s/he has full control of the progress on-site and that everything is reported as it is should.


Project monitoring can get even more challenging if the managing team decides to rely on pen and paper for the tracking process. That’s why, in cases like that construction sequence animation can be of great value. All activities and materials on the field can be traced and recorded in a simple and straightforward way.

This footage can then be transferred back to the office where it can be added to the existing 4D model. Most importantly, it can be compared to the initial design and make it easy for project stakeholder to detect any deviations from the agreed plan.

4. Conflict prevention and resolution

It is no secret that disputes are one of the biggest and most costly bottlenecks that the building sector is battling against. Nevertheless, the existence of a common-shared information model adds remarkable transparency and accountability to the entire project.

In simple words, any addition or alteration to the design in place can now easily be traced back to the person who is responsible for it. Either we are talking about an architect or an engineer it is visible to the whole team who is in charge of which project component.

Read also: Two-thirds of the day on site is wasted shown in Danish university study

Thanks to this, nobody can transfer the blame to other members of the construction process. Furthermore, in situations where there are two opposite suggestions for the same issue then the workflow clash can be recognised and substituted by an alternative suggestion.

As a consequence, disputes are no longer the number one headache for the project team.

5. Safer data and construction sites

The use of a construction animation sequence for monitoring the progress on the field can have some great benefits for the safety of the project both in terms of data breach and site accident hazards.

First of all, by keeping all scheduling data to a project information model project stakeholders can feel a little more safer when it comes to protecting valuable project information as it is much harder for any essential data to be lost or stolen.

Lastly, in regard to construction site safety, 4D BIM can be a convincing step forward to a safer working site. That is, of course, the natural outcome of having full control over your project. By knowing every single detail about the location of materials, machinery and workers the management team can guide its stuff accordingly and take the best, data-driven decisions to keep them safe.

What are BIM dimensions?

BIM is more than just the 3D modeling and 4D dimension that it is known for. BIM has other dimensions that describe its various subsets—3D (object model), 4D (time), 5D (cost), 6D (as-built operation), 7D (sustainability), and even 8D (safety) (Smith, 2014). Eastman et al. (2011) and Karmeedan (2010) have expressed that there is an almost infinite number of dimensions to the building model and have defined this multidimensional capacity as ‘nD’ modeling.

As cited by Smith, Kameedan (2010, page 285) provided the explanations and definitions of the different dimensions as follows:

  • 4D – a planning process that links the construction activities represented in time schedules with 3D models to create a real-time graphical simulation of construction progress against time. The fourth dimension being time enables the assessment and evaluation of a project’s workflow planning and buildability. This offers the project stakeholders and participants the opportunity to effectively visualise, analyse, and communicate issues about sequential, spatial and temporal aspects of the construction progress. In addition, 4D scheduling allows the creation of more robust schedules, better site layouts, and logistic plans, which greatly contributes to productivity.
  • 5D – the fifth dimension is the cost and when integrated to the BIM model, creates the 5D model, which allows instant generation of cost budgets and financial illustrations of the model versus time. Benefits include reduction of time for quantity take-off and estimation from weeks to minutes, more accurate estimates, lesser disputes from CAD data ambiguities, more time for cost consultants to spend time on value improvement.
  • 6D – the sixth dimension extends the BIM for facilities management. Since the 3D model includes a rich description of the building elements and engineering services, it provides a consolidated description for a building. Using this consolidated description with the geometry, relationships and property capabilities makes it a useful database for facilities management.
  • 7D – adding a seventh dimension, which is the sustainability component, generates the 7D model that can be utilised for designers to meet carbon targets for particular aspects of the project.
  • 8D – the 8D model incorporates safety aspects in the design and construction, enabling better safety management.

What is the difference between 4D and 5D?

As mentioned above, 4D BIM integrates data from the 3D model with project scheduling and programming data, allowing simulation analysis of construction activities. On the other hand, 5D BIM links all these 4D information with the project’s cost aspects and data like material quantities, schedules, and other related price information.

Wrapping it up!

All in all, it becomes apparent that 4D BIM can be a game-changer for the construction industry. The ability to provide a detailed depiction of the project’s progress is extremely powerful and it can save the sector valuable resources both in terms of time and budget. Nonetheless, a solid understanding of its function is required before a project team can make the most out of its use.

If you want to learn how you can create and organise your processes in a digital environment, grab your free copy on Starting your journey with BIM today!

Topics: BIM and digital adoption

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