4D BIM, an acronym for 4-dimensional building information modeling and a term widely used in the CAD industry, refers to the intelligent linking of individual 3D CAD components or assemblies with time- or scheduling-related information. The use of the term 4D is intended to refer to the fourth dimension: time, i.e. 4D is 3D plus time schedule. The construction plan of works information with 3-Dimensional models is 4D enables the various participants (from architects, designers, contractors to clients) of a construction project, to plan, sequence the physical activities, visualize the critical path in the entire duration of a series of events, mitigate the risks, reporting and monitor progress of construction activities through the lifetime of the project. This BIM-centric approach towards project management technique has a very high potential to improve the project management and delivery of construction project, of any size or complexity.
In 1998, Sir John Egan, in his report Rethinking Construction, argued that certain principles and management techniques could successfully cross-over from other industries like manufacturing to serve the project delivery demands of the construction industry. The Egan Report cited "Technology as a Tool":
- "One area in which we know new technology to be a very useful tool is in the design of buildings and their components, and in the exchange of design information throughout the construction team. There are enormous benefits to be gained, in terms of eliminating waste and rework for example, from using modern CAD technology to prototype buildings and by rapidly exchanging information on design changes. Redesign should take place on computer, not on the construction site."
4D BIM adds a new dimension (time) to 3D CAD or solid modelling, it enables a sequence of events to be depicted visually on a time line that has been populated by a 3D model (augmenting traditional Gantt charts and Critical Path (CPM) schedules often used in project management). Construction sequences can be reviewed as a series of problems using 4D BIM, enabling users to explore options, manage solutions and optimize results. It enables construction product development, collaborative and transparent project implementation, partnering with the supply chain and production of components, and is in keeping with Egan's vision: "sustained improvement should then be delivered through use of techniques for eliminating waste and increasing value for the customer."
As an advanced construction management technique, it is increasingly used by project delivery teams working on larger projects. For example, it is used in the construction of projects including tall buildings, bridges, highways, tunnels, university campuses and hospital complexes, luxury residential, residential and infrastructure such as courthouses, levee systems, hydro-electric power generation stations, mining and industrial process facilities. 4D BIM has traditionally been used for higher end projects due to the associated costs, but technologies are now emerging that allow the process to be used by laymen or to drive processes such as manufacture.
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