What is 4D?

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Building information modeling (BIM) in 3D has helped eliminate design conflicts and enable more efficient project coordination. In addition to the three D’s (width, height and depth), scheduling has become an increasingly important facet of BIM that adds another level of depth, or dimension, to the BIM model. Simply put, time is the fourth dimension in BIM.

Used in some movie theater experiences by adding the sense of touch or smell to what you can see and hear on the screen, that extra dimension enriches the experience. Likewise, the use of an extra dimension – 4D – in modeling provides a whole other meaning. Context tells us that 4D modeling is naturally different from 2D and 3D modeling, but how?

The AGC Contractors’ Guide to BIM, Edition One provides an indepth look at the BIM coordination process and how to properly manage it. One example is the relatively new practice of linking a schedule to the BIM model – providing the enrichment of 4D.

4D inserts time considerations into the modeling process at the same time that it acts as a miniature version of what you want to build. “Either the native design software or a third-party application,” the Guide says, “will allow you to link the objects in your model directly to the data from your scheduling software.” By linking a schedule to a model, you’re basically “turning on model elements in the order in which they are built.”

Not only can this linking save you time and money, but it also offers a much more streamlined way to approach a project. With a 4D component, stressing out over time constraints and wondering how long each and every aspect of a project will take are things of the past. 4D modeling goes beyond clash detection and allows team members to properly evaluate what needs to be done and when—no relying on gut feelings.


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In addition, the Guide points out, “various ‘what if’ scenarios can be evaluated much more effectively to ensure maximum use of materials and labor.” With 4D, there’s no need to guesstimate. All participants involved in the project “benefit from ‘seeing’ the building get built virtually, activity by activity.” This ensures that no beam goes unnoticed and no stone goes unturned, so to speak.

And not least of all, the communication barrier is significantly lowered. When you are able to ensure that everyone sees the same model and the same data, you can know for sure that all of your team members are on the same page. The act of collaboration is more meaningful when everyone can see their job and everyone else’s on the same level.

Something to keep in mind, the Guide points out, is that different modeling programs “work with different scheduling software, and this should be investigated for compatibility… prior to the creation of both a model and a schedule.” An Autodesk University presentation “How to Create a 4D-Ready Model Within Revit,” explains how to prepare 4D-ready Revit models for Autodesk Navisworks Manage or Simulate.

Using 4D modeling may be the answer to your prayers, but make sure you have all the information you need before utilizing it.


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