To support the ‘4D Group’ movement, a few 4D Planners at Decmil in Western Australia held a session to discuss common industry perceptions on the use and value of 4D planning.
The session included Mathew Drake (Planner at Decmil Group), Andrew Taylor (Senior Planner at Decmil Group) and Reuben Burns (Group Manager Project Controls at Decmil Group)
3 re-occurring ‘perceptions’ were identified and discussed, and some responses were put forward for consideration, and perhaps further discussion for the 4D group team members.
We hope this is of some value.
Perception 1 on 4D – 4D is only necessary on projects with BIM deliverables
MD – It is true that certain contracts will require 4d planning as a key deliverable. However, this should not be viewed as a pre-requisite to using 4D on projects. This is particularly relevant in WA, where projects with formal and contractual BIM deliverables are not so common. The point of construction technologies such as 4D are to be progressive and innovative, we should be progressing the use of such tools wherever possible, not just because we want to ‘tick the box’.
RB – at Decmil, we are encouraging our planners to try and tackle key staging or specific complexities on projects with the use of 4D. It really doesn’t matter whether or not ‘Project Models’ exist or not, model geometry creation can be easily produced these days (either in-house or externally), it must be considered as a standalone planning technique, rather than pigeon-holed to a ‘BIM’ function.
Perception 2 on 4D – BIM models and 4D Planning costs a lot of money. What value can 4D add to ‘non-BIM’ projects?
AT – It is probably fair to recognise that developing a model to the level of the UK’s ‘Level 2’ type BIM would add significant costs to a project and require skills that are not necessarily readily available here in the WA market. However, 4D is often concerned with components of the model that relate to the programme activities, and for the most part you are decreasing the level of detail required of a model through consolidation of resource assignment. Therefore, models are not necessarily required to be data rich and to high Level of Detail to enable production of meaningful 4D outputs.
Whilst 4D provides an important feedback loop through its coupled interface with the permanent works design, 4D is foremost a construction tool and not a design tool in and of itself. BIM models typically provide the permanent asset design, whereas a key aspect of 4d planning and construction management requires a significant addition of temporary works modelling and logistics planning and coordination. At Decmil, this model content will always be expected to be developed in-house and is simply part of the 4d planning process. Whilst the use of unfinalised design for wider construction planning purposes should certainly be monitored, 4D construction is a tool that provides value from the project outset and therefore 4D practitioners should be evolving the construction programme using conceptual models from the outset.
An example of a 4D technique adopted where only discrete model components were used, is the level crossing removal works shown below. This was an Alliance project whereby BIM was mandated. The 4D model sequences a detailed, minute-by-minute rail occupation but the model itself uses only a handful of grouped components. Whilst BIM models were available in this instance, the same or similar could have been produced with simplistic 3D “sketches”.
MD – Even with very basic geometry created using Sketchup, 4D can help communicate the logic and sequencing of the programme. Traditionally, presenting Gantt charts for review does not often generate the desired commentary and discussion to affect meaningful changes to the programme. However, when 4d visualisations are used, the feedback is always enhanced. Whilst basic staging diagrams are a great tool, producing staging through 4D holds so much more weight, not only because it is linked to programme activities, but there is no discrepancy between what is being visualised by everyone at the table, it is there on the screen.
The below is an example of a typical 4D application for high level staging communications to capture key project information around completion of facilities and resourcing data for a remote project that had sensitive resourcing constraints due to accommodation camp capacity. The model used for this application was put together in 2 days using Sketchup.
Perception 3 on 4D – 4D is a very specialised skill and will need specialist consultants?
RB – It is true that 4D remains a unique skillset which isn’t necessarily considered a pre-requisite when searching for planners. The process of 4D planning demands new planning skillsets and strong communication skills, which is not conventionally required of a typical ‘planner’. However, 4D Planning is simply an evolution of time management on projects, and therefore very much a planning and scheduling function. A good conventional planner needs to not only have full appreciation of the CPM programme but should also have a sound understanding of the constructability. 4D should be considered as a new tool to better communicate their programme and the construction methodology. It is not uncommon for a planner to have to produce staging diagrams, marked up drawings and planning method statements. The 4D process should be considered as an enhancement to these deliverables. 4D planning software these days is highly intuitive and cost effective, therefore it is my opinion that planners should be actively encouraged to learn 4d skills as a core discipline.
So, whilst it is true that in most instances, organisations would currently need to engage the services of a specialist 4d planning consultant, there is no reason whatsoever why, with the right support and encouragement, planners can not add 4D to their existing planning toolkit.
Our Key Messages:
• If you’re a planner, actively look to develop your 4D Planning skillset, regardless of the project your on, or sector you work in – value can be found
• If you are an employer, try to encourage your planning team to explore 4D, and research costs associated to start implementing 4D on projects – you may be surprised
• If you’re a client, be bold and ask for 4D on your project, particularly if you are concerned about understanding time related risk and having a degree of transparency around time management.
• You don’t have to look at the entire project, often the greatest value in 4D can be through targeting discrete packages of work that have greater complexity, and greater risk.
• Do not wait for the ‘BIM’ movement to catch up!...in WA this could be a very long time!
• Planners beware. If 4D modelling is being done on an existing programme, be sure your logic and sequencing is in check, as 4D will expose this with great transparency. You don’t walk out of your front door in the morning without putting your clothes on. 🤓