Getting into sync with 4D simulation

Utilising 4D simulations enhances the work processes during the proposal, early project planning, detailed engineering and construction phases of the project, optimising the construction schedule.– Rob Charlton

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group, explains the importance and benefits of the 4D design experience.

The rate of change within technology is phenomenal, even in the past decade we have seen major advances in science, genetics, robotics and now we are even hearing talk of artificial “super-intelligence” – machines that will out-think man!

And while the construction industry is lagging somewhat behind other industries such as automotive and retail, we are enjoying a new emergence of intelligent software to aid the progression of digital construction.

If we look back to, say, the 1960s, the age of psychedelia and the introduction of the 3D design experience, at that stage did they even consider 4D and 5D would be possible?

Fast track to modern day and 4D is not so unimaginable, in fact the use of 4D simulation within Level 2 BIM projects in my view is essential.

What is 4D simulation?

4D simulation is a process that combines a 3D models with the project schedule allowing all stakeholders to visualise the construction phase in a virtual environment.

4D also, and perhaps more importantly, allows you to enhance construction sequencing by simulating the placement of resources – effectively mapping the model and the delivery timeline together.

Using preliminary 3D models and summary schedules developed during front-end design, 4D simulation enables the project team to visually review construction activity across the entire project, in planning and real-time stages.

Utilising 4D simulations enhances the work processes during the proposal, early project planning, detailed engineering and construction phases of the project, optimising the construction schedule.

A virtual environment

The very essence of digital construction methodology is to generate high-quality 3D design, improve cross supply chain communication, standardise working processes and ultimately achieve unified collaboration.

Introduce 4D simulation into the mix and you enhance the traditional BIM process as we know it, allowing the data and the geometry to synchronise with the project schedule.

The visualisation of sequencing gives you an analytical view of the project at each stage, and will allow you to compare scheduled completion with actual level of completion. Elements behind schedule can be identified and correction plans developed.

This level of execution can result in a significant reduction of risk and cost.

4D simulation in practice

BIM.Technologies – part of the Space Group network – is working on Greenwich Peninsula, London’s largest single regeneration project. This £8.4bn transformation of the Peninsula will, over the coming years, provide 15,720 new homes in seven new neighbourhoods, as well a major new film studio, a new design district, schools, offices, health services and public spaces, all within a 1.6 mile stretch along the River Thames.  

The use of 4D simulation on this project has allowed us to monitor progress onsite against the construction programme. One of the main contractors on the project had cameras set up onsite for health and safety purposes and it was decided that they could also make use of these cameras to feed into the project model – effectively mapping real-time activity directly with the 3D visuals. This meant they could digitally compare, at a high-level, what was going on onsite against what was in the construction schedule

Using this intelligence, BIM.Technologies also set up “look-ahead” workshops with the subcontractors, covering specific elements of the project such as how some of the facades would be installed. Using 4D, they were able to show how the facade system needed to be set up, in one asset alone there were 17 facade different elements.

The 4D simulation visualised how the facades were to be installed, looking at the geometry, logistics, resources (equipment) and timeline – effectively planning when equipment was needed on site and how to plan/manage this around other construction taking place on other assets at the same time.  

4D is also exceptionally effective for masterplanning. Taking BIM.Technologies’ work on the King’s Cross 67-acre development, for example, 4D was implemented on the logistics planning – with multiple construction phases on multiple assets all taking place at the same time with multiple subcontractors, effective precision sequencing was essential. 4D on this project meant that all the models and the sequencing were aligned for maximum efficiencies.

The real four-dimensional world

4D technology has surpassed certain boundaries that came in the way of obtaining real-time imaging. With 4D, we can now align models with construction phasing to allow us to build better, faster and at significant reduced risk.

4D has made possible the ability to map time and space, enabling better understanding and analysis of the project, adding value at every stage.

Main image: BIM.Technologies used 4D simulation on designs for Greenwich Peninsula

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