Why Everyone is so Bullish about 5D BIM…
5D BIM (five-dimensional building information modeling) has been lauded in the construction industry for years. In fact, McKinsey has pointed to 5D BIM as one of the next key trends to transform the construction industry (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/imagining-constructions-digital-future). Instead of visualizing a building with the assistance of pen and paper, 5D BIM allows architects to leverage a 3D model containing a highly detailed database. In combination with a standard 3D model, the fourth dimension represents time, planning, and scheduling. The fifth dimension does represent cost, but it’s much more about how the structure will be built, durations, materials, labor, and equipment. Why are these additional components superior to just using a 3D model?
5D minimizes and mitigates risk
To estimate the cost, you must drill down and organize many different activities into a structure. Every construction project is complex, regardless of whether it’s a small single-family house or a hospital. A large number of components and people need to work together, and 5D helps by allowing you to analyze how everything will get done. You can start identifying risks and planning immediately, so when you do win the job, you are already ahead of the game.
5D pinpoints faulty models
In general, responsibility for faulty estimates changes slightly with 5D BIM. (Of course, responsibility always depends on the type of project and the relationship between architects, engineers, and contractors/subcontractors.) If you link the 5D model (which is about the cost) to the 3D model, any fault in one model will affect the other. People who work with 5D models in estimating software like Sigma are able to go to the people working with the 3D model and tell them that they found an error. These types of faults wouldn’t have been found previously because the models weren’t linked together. Roles are changing rapidly thanks to new technologies like these, and people are now able to work together more effectively.
Software that leverages 5D saves time and money
Some companies have already built a dedicated strategy for changing into BIM workflows (including 5D) and are looking for suitable software. The ROI might be calculated by figuring out how much time is saved, but it’s also a good idea to consider how many manual errors are mitigated by using more automated processes. You will certainly save time when a computer counts the quantity of windows in a project, for instance. However, if this information was entered manually and some of the windows were overlooked, it would also result in a huge unexpected cost.
5D is a much more iterative process and working with digital connections between different software makes it much easier to make updates to the model. When building owners make last minute changes, users simply hit the update button instead of starting from scratch and counting the windows all over again. These kinds of advantages should all be considered when figuring the return on investment.
How can companies begin taking advantage of 5D BIM?
The most important step is to actually start working with a 5D model. Many people think that they should build perfect 3D and 4D models before they can do 5D BIM, but this is a horribly flawed line of reasoning. 5D simply pertains to thinking in digital structures and trying to obtain data from another source (like PlanSwift or Revit). The best starting advice for people new to 5D would be to take the 3D model they are currently working with and attempt to get the window count into their estimating software. Everything else can continue to work as it always did before, so there isn’t a drastic change of workflow. Begin by simply trying out some of the features to get a feel for the technology.
Almost all CAD software (like Revit or ArchiCAD) uses a standard file format called IFC. Some estimating software (like Sigma) can import IFC files and connect to everything within them. However, as with all standard file formats, you must figure out how to fully leverage them, and this is where many people get disappointed. Consider how practically anybody in the world can open a Word document, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can fully use the actual information contained within. You must figure out a strategy to make your software work together, which means making sure the estimating software you use can import IFC files, Excel spreadsheets, and/or Revit files.
The Potential in 5D BIM is not a new thing, but is the industry finally ready to adapt?
We started looking into 5D BIM more than ten years ago. We were fortunate to have people on our team who had a vision that was several years ahead of the industry. They realized how advantageous it would be to bring different kinds of software together to share data. Unfortunately, we became very frustrated to find that nobody else was really interested in this solution at the time. Because we’ve been working with it for so long, it has allowed us to mature the way we take advantage of its promising features. Thankfully, the construction industry at large has now begun to realize the importance of 5D BIM. While it’s still a mystery to some, it’s no longer surprising to hear many companies talking about how they plan to take advantage of 5D.
After seeing the possibilities with machine learning and advanced smartphone apps, end users expect all software to have capabilities that make tasks easier than before. Just like we did with 5D more than a decade ago, people with a forward-thinking vision can introduce new features that bring estimating software into the future. For example, features like parametric assembly can optimize how estimators work with materials and price books so they don’t have to start from scratch every time.
We believe that, if we can think creatively and embrace these new ideas, we’re going to see even greater changes in the construction industry as time goes on.