While this model of a physical space, specifically referred to as 3D BIM, is helpful on its own, different layers of functionality can be added to the BIM information to create an even more powerful model of the area. One such additional “dimension” of BIM is scheduling data. By linking a time component to each element in a CAD sketch, designers and developers can create a living timeline of the space and show how the design can come to life in phases. Once this time component has been added, the 3D BIM process becomes the 4D BIM process.
Once these CAD drawings have been mocked up, the second piece of 4D BIM comes into play–time data. There are several different types of time data that can become important here. The first type is time data that is pertinent to the project, like deadlines, phases, and materials sourcing due dates. These are usually arranged on timelines, and CAD drawings can be split apart to show the end result of each phase. This time data is generally more of a bird’s eye view of the project and not representative of the details.
The other important type of time data in 4D BIM is data about the construction components themselves. This is where large due dates get broken down into smaller milestones and deadlines. For example, a wall constructed using drywall might have time data about how long it takes to source the materials, construct the wall, and let it dry. By plugging this time metadata into the equation, 4D BIM can create realistic schedules of how individual components fit into a construction sequence timeline.
In the vast majority of cases, BIM is used on larger projects where multiple phases or staggered starts are necessary. 4D BIM helps enormously with developing these phases by providing a way to create project phasing simulations. Using the time data programmed into the components of a space, you can show the evolution of the concept over time as each phase is completed. Without the time data that 4D BIM requires, it would be nearly impossible to visualize each piece separately.
In the world of building, the term “lean construction” refers to a holistic approach to building that works to continuously improve all aspects of the space by combining theoretical research and physical development, all while using the least amount of resources possible. Lean scheduling is an offshoot of this philosophy where time and phasing are viewed holistically in order to optimize the project’s timeline. Considering the detailed yet holistic view that 4D BIM provides of a space, it is easy to see how it can be a great asset in pursuing this building strategy.
One of the toughest parts about the construction industry is that it is so interdisciplinary. Financial planners, engineers, builders, and designers alike all have to collaborate and work towards a shared goal. Although it might be easy for a construction planner to visualize a project in its beginning stages, that might not always be true for people on the financial side. They do, however, need to have a good sense of where the project is heading before they commit their resources.
In many ways, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the natural evolution of design drawing. In other ways, it’s much more. Without a doubt, The 4D design process included in building an information model can be invaluable when visualizing building projects and presenting that design vision to relevant stakeholders. At the same time, it turns that vision into an actionable work document that increases the chances of successful construction.
BIM, at its core, results in a visualized file that includes all variables that could possibly be needed to construct the actual project. Provide the right input, and the output will be a complex model with all the information anyone involved in the construction process needs to succeed in their work. More specifically, the benefits of BIM for the construction process can be narrowed down to five individual components.
Traditionally, building a model of a construction project has focused first and foremost on the visualization of the building or infrastructure to be built. Professionals involved in the construction process can use this type of CAD model as a guideline on how to proceed, but not necessarily as an exact calculation of variables involved.
That’s no longer true in a BIM environment. Here, these variables are not just included, but highlighted. Thermal modeling, for instance, is just as much a part of BIM as natural light flow and the HVAC systems incorporated in the final design.
In other words, moving from more traditional architectural drawings to BIM means expanding the scope of the model from which your team will work. That expanded scope, in return, will lead to significantly increased reliability of the model, as well as a greater reliance on it for planning purposes.
The above-mentioned expanded scope, in turn, helps construction managers and stakeholders better understand what exactly will be involved in building the final project. Think of BIM as building the actual project digitally, in its complete form, before engaging in the construction process in a real-world environment.
Building digitally first means being able to project exactly how realistic the project actually will be. Now, you can project not only where the HVAC system will run or how electricity will be set up, but also understand the constructability of it on a larger scale.
Who will be need to be involved in the process? What are the individual timelines needed, based on scope of work? Do the countless variables involved make the project difficult or even impossible to execute? All of these questions will be needed to begin construction, and all of them can be answered with an accurate building information model.
A traditional CAD architectural model usually does not allow for accurate pricing projections. BIM, on the other hand, includes enough variables to actually predict both individual and overall construction pricing.
Anyone involved in construction management knows that one of the most difficult parts of completing a project is making sure that everyone involved is on the same page. That involves not only the various construction professionals responsible for anything from brick laying to HVAC and electrical installation, but also the client, shareholders, and anyone else who might have to sign of on parts of all of the project before completion.
Here, the complexity of BIM once again proves to be a significant benefit. Because it includes a wide range of variables related to construction, and visualizes all of them in a single model, it allows for more coordinated collaboration of all stakeholders involved in the process.
The projection possibilities mentioned above also play into this benefit. BIM allows not just for a reasonably accurate timeline of the project, but for a breakdown of that timeline according to individual construction responsibilities. The result, greater coordination, will play a major part in guiding the project to completion.
In a 2015 article, Popular Science Magazine outlined just how complex modern construction processes have become. It’s no longer linear, in which an architect designs a project, an engineer takes it from there, and contractors and construction managers guide it to completion. As the article states, this traditional process results in a lack of coordination, longer timelines, and lost money.
However, BIM offers a more cost and time-sensitive solution:
A BIM Model has the ability to be embedded with data, much like a database or spreadsheet. This data can be generated as you design, like the dimensions of your walls, or inputted by a user, like the price of a specific material. Now that these objects have this associated data, previously daunting tasks (like recalculating your project costs or how many beams you’re using) are now done automatically as updates to the design are being made. For example, as walls are drawn within the model you are able to extract all the associated information, like area, length and even cost.
In other words, a non-linear process is made possible through the coordination mentioned in the previous section of this article. Because data is automatically associated with design, design updates will naturally update the entire model, allowing for a more dynamic process that accounts for every variable in the construction process.
Planning a construction project from beginning to end, because of the complexity mentioned previously, can be a daunting process. A workflow has to include a large number of overlapping timelines, particularly when it comes to hitting a set deadline with all types of professionals on board completing individual parts of the project.
At the same time, coordination of this workflow is absolute key. Electricians will not be able to start work until other parts of construction are completed. By modeling out all variables, BIM allows construction managers to build this type of overlapping and multi-dimensional workflow in a way that can be followed from beginning to end.
One of the goals in complex construction management is typically to avoid clashes, areas in which models overlap or one variable makes the others impossible. Through the singular model emphasized by BIM, finding these clashes is made exponentially easier. From hard to soft clashes, it allows managers to spot problems before they become significant, building a more reliable workflow that eases the work done by everyone involved.
It’s important to consider the benefits of BIM for a variety of processes, from visualization to rights to light compliance. But at the same time, focusing only on those benefits can understate just how crucial a successful and accurate model will be for the entirety of the construction process.
From projecting the constructability and price to the project to building a workflow that includes everyone involved, BIM has begun to change the way that construction managers forecast and execute individual projects. It’s become a core part of the planning process, reducing inefficiencies and maximizing the potential for success.
Building Information Modeling, in other words, has become an invaluable tool throughout the construction industry. Partnering with INDBIM can help to build a model that accurately accounts for all involved variables, any projects that start with BIM will have a greater chance of success, and maximize efficiency for everyone involved.