Making 4D Construction Sequencing ‘Business as Usual’ – and How To Do It

Technology is increasingly driving almost every sector to new heights and efficiencies; the construction industry stands at a pivotal juncture.

Incorporating 4D construction sequencing into everyday operations isn’t just a technological upgrade; it’s a business imperative for forward-thinking firms, especially in APAC.

Most of the time, 4D BIM is seen as an early stakeholder engagement tool. You create fancy animations and visualisations of the built assets coming to life, ultimately presenting a relatively low-fidelity model of the asset you’re creating.

But it can be so much more.

What is 4D construction sequencing? 

We all know about the three dimensions of our built environment. However, 4D construction sequencing adds a crucial component of the formula for project management success – time.

By adding time parameters to the three-dimensional geometry of our BIM models, we can:

  • Programme activities for delivery so that there are no overlaps or gaps
  • Understand the logistics of how things are going to come together over time
  • Plan for access, safety, and resource management

The benefits of 4D construction sequencing

4D construction sequencing lets us see a building come together in a way that almost anyone can understand – not only people who work in the programming and planning aspect of construction but everyone who has a stake in the success of a project.

As humans, we rely on visual content to understand and consume information – so why, for example, is the archaic Gantt chart still such a core piece of documentation when it’s something that most people struggle to interpret?

So, if you’re still asking yourself, ‘Why do we need to leverage 4D?’ here are a few reasons you need to invest the time:

    1. De-risking projects: Predictive visualisation through 4D sequencing offers stakeholders a comprehensive view of a project’s timeline. This foresight enables teams to anticipate challenges, manage resources effectively, and mitigate potential risks, ensuring on-time and within-budget project delivery.
    2. Enhanced collaboration: 4D sequencing bridges the communication gap between design, engineering, and execution teams. With a shared visualisation platform, every stakeholder stays informed, aligned, and on the same page, reducing errors and rework.
    3. Optimised resource allocation and logistics: With the ability to view construction processes in real-time and in their future states, firms can optimise labour, machinery, and material allocations, leading to cost savings and efficiency gains. Additionally, it allows them to sanity check the simple things – can our vehicles pass through these pinch points? Are our cranes going to be able to reach all aspects of the building?
    4. Digital twin integration: Integrating real-time construction data into a digital replica of the built asset can have a profound impact. It provides a robust maintenance and management tool and ensures that the asset’s life cycle is streamlined and sustainable.
    5. Contingency planning: For organisations in the resources industries, 4D sequencing is a powerful tool for visualising shutdowns. It enables businesses to understand, control, and minimise downtime and lost production.
    6. Safety improvements: For both on-site workers and members of the public, safety is of paramount importance. 4D sequencing allows planners to understand how different groups interact with a site and make the necessary safety provisions ahead of time instead of needing to be reactive once the work has begun.

How to make 4D construction sequencing business as usual

So those are the benefits, but how do you do it?

Transitioning to 4D construction sequencing requires significant strategic investment in technology, training, and change management. However, the returns can be monumental regarding project outcomes, stakeholder satisfaction, and long-term business growth.

So where should an organisation interested in 4D sequencing invest its time and resources? The following steps are a good start:

    1. Invest in robust 4D software: Prioritise software that integrates seamlessly with your existing BIM tools and offers an intuitive user interface. Your solution must accommodate technically-minded BIM users, managers, and ground teams. Tools that are easy to use will aid in the adoption and mean that the early work needed to set up 4D models will not get deprioritised. As the saying goes, facilitate the change – don’t just do it for them.
    2. Upskill teams: New digital workflows can’t embed themselves as business-as-usual without early buy-in from the teams that use them. Regular training sessions will ensure that your teams can leverage 4D tools effectively, driving project success. It’s important that the tools are placed into the hands of the planners themselves, rather than those of middle managers. As users become more familiar with the tools, they’ll naturally become used to 3D geometry.
    3. Promote a culture of innovation: Encourage teams to explore the possibilities of 4D sequencing, fostering a mindset of continuous improvement and innovation. Showcase the most forward-thinking examples and reward the teams who push themselves to learn more.
    4. Capture the data: Easier said than done, but this is a must. 4D sequencing can be expensive and hard to sell as an overhead, but you need to be able to benchmark your project against past problems on other projects to quantify the ROI value. If this is done well, you will also have the structured data needed to make the most of emerging AI technologies and their capability to analyse, predict, and recreate better and faster approaches to constructability.

If you can look at it, you can talk about it

Ultimately, the rewards granted by 4D construction sequencing are contingent on the work that goes into its setup. At the outset of a complicated construction project, it can be difficult to justify putting aside the time and resources required to implement a useful 4D model.

But just think of the benefits – instead of staring at the stark 2D plane of a Gantt chart or a spreadsheet, you could look at your 4D model illustrating every phase of the construction process. It will let you see problems before they occur, preventing resource-sapping on-site mistakes. It will prompt planners to be proactive. And it will allow you to communicate with the broadest possible range of stakeholders, throughout the life of your project. You can maximise the chances of success by visualising every step of a project in a way that most people can understand.

Incorporating 4D construction sequencing into everyday business practices isn’t just about staying ahead of the curve. It’s about setting new industry benchmarks, increasing safety and efficiency, delivering unmatched value to clients, and building your organisation’s resilient, sustainable, and prosperous future.

Written by Ellery Miles, Digital Project Manager at DBM Vircon, for ConstructionBlog.Autodesk.Com