Glossary December 18, 2023
Updated 18 January 2024 by James Ocean
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4D BIM: Definition & Benefits

Table of Contents

Introduction to BIM

Building information modeling is a rather unconventional process that completely changes not only building management processes, but also building construction and building design. It uses a well-structured digital model to encompass all aspects of a building project, from its inception to its handover and beyond. This comprehensive model serves as a central hub for collaboration, enabling stakeholders from diverse disciplines (contractors, engineers, architects, etc.) to seamlessly share and access information throughout the project lifecycle. This model is called a common data environment or CDE.

BIM has completely changed the construction industry by putting heavy emphasis on extensive communication and collaboration. This makes it easier for stakeholders to be on the same page at all times while also promoting innovation in the industry as a whole. Given BIM’s transformative power, it is imperative for builders, designers, and project sponsors to fully grasp the principles of BIM, its software tools, and the components of its models.

BIM dimensions

The nature of BIM as a fundamental departure from traditional management methods has hindered its  widespread adoption as a paradigm shift in construction project management, as the construction industry is inherently resistant to digitalization. It is fair to say that BIM is not a simple technology at its core: it is a comprehensive web of factors and functions that are connected to one another and seriously depend on one another throughout different project phases.

There is also no single, unified approach to BIM . It has levels and dimensions. The “level” is the “maturity” of implementation of BIM in a specific case, while the latter represents how specific data are linked to an existing informational model. This article describes the dimensionsBIM, which are drastically different from the maturity levels of BIM.

The majority of important dimensions of BIM are based on a relatively simple concept: a 3D CAD model with a large amount of data embedded in it. This is what most users refer to as a 3D BIM model, and it is also the basis for all additional dimensions of BIM. There are BIM models with plenty of ranges of dimensions, from 4D to 10D and even more, with each dimension serving a distinct role in the project realization process. For instance, 4D BIM incorporates time-based scheduling, while 5D BIM introduces cost estimation and budgeting processes.

  • 4D BIM – Scheduling and Time
  • 5D BIM – Budgeting and Costs
  • 6D BIM – Environmental Impact and Sustainability
  • 7D BIM – Maintenance and Facility Management
  • 8D BIM – Project Safety
  • 9D BIM – Lean Construction
  • 10D BIM – Construction Industrialization

The intricacies of the dimensions of BIM are rather substantial, and implementing additional dimensions often proves more expensive and challenging than adopting BIM in its “basic” form (that is, 3D BIM or less). This particular issue stems from the inherent reliance of each additional dimension on the pre-existing 3D BIM model, i.e. 4D BIM represents a 3D BIM model with scheduling data added to it, 5D BIM uses a 4D BIM model with additional cost-related information, and so on.

All of this can be rather difficult to explain (or implement), even though the differences between scheduling data and budgeting data are visible to the naked eye. There is also the added confusion around the naming conventions for BIM dimensions since they have little to no common ground with geometric dimensions.

Nevertheless, while BIM in its base form is relatively widespread these days, most dimensions past 5D BIM are rarely used by customers. We have already talked about 5D BIM as a separate tool, but now it is time to go over what makes 4D BIM so special.


4D BIM is a dynamic process that integrates 3D models with time-based information, such as project schedules and logistical plans, to create a simulated construction sequence. In essence, 4D BIM augments 3D models with the “dimension” of schedule-related information. This integration of time into the model enhances its value for project teams, bridging the gap between the design and construction phases.

When it is effectively implemented, 4D BIM enhances communication and collaboration among construction teams, identifying potential clashes and minimizing risks, and thereby ensuring that even the most complex installations proceed seamlessly as planned. For many stakeholders who utilize 4D visualization, look-ahead scheduling can further elevate the quality of work while simultaneously saving time and resources by eliminating unnecessary rework caused by poor planning. However, proper implementation of 4D BIM is no simple task.

Benefits of 4D BIM

It may not seem like anything groundbreaking, but the introduction of scheduling data to the existing BIM model offers a rather impressive number of advantages, including:

  • Project monitoring

Overseeing every aspect of a construction project, regardless of its scale or complexity, can be a daunting task, especially for large-scale undertakings. Conventional methods of project monitoring, such as relying on pen-and-paper records, can render this process even more challenging.

Construction sequence animation is emerging as a valuable tool for this. By capturing and recording all on-site activities and material movements in a clear and concise manner, animation provides a comprehensive record of the project’s progress. This footage can then be integrated into the existing 4D BIM model, enabling project stakeholders to effortlessly track progress, identify deviations from the original design, and make informed decisions.

  • Construction site safety

Using construction animation sequences to monitor on-site progress can yield substantial safety benefits, safeguarding both sensitive project data and workers on the construction site.

First, integrating scheduling data into the project information model enhances data security by making it more difficult for crucial information to be lost or stolen. This way, the risk of unauthorized data breaches is close to zero, while ensuring that all project participants have access to essential documentation at all times.

Second, 4D BIM significantly improves construction site safety by providing project managers with comprehensive control over project activities. By understanding the precise locations of materials, machinery, and workers at all times, management teams can proactively identify potential hazards and implement effective safety measures. This data-driven approach offers the ability to make all kinds of informed decisions, minimizing the possibility of accidents and improving worker safety across the board.

  • Planning

Incorporating scheduling data into the project information model gives construction stakeholders a comprehensive overview of the project’s entire lifecycle, from design to completion, at an early stage. This detailed visualization of the project’s development empowers the management team to proactively prevent errors, identify potential clashes, and dynamically adjust their plans based on the newly acquired information.

This approach enables a construction process in which every project stakeholder remains at least one step ahead of the on-site activities. In understanding the upcoming tasks and anticipating imminent needs, everyone can be confident that the necessary tools and materials will be readily available at the appropriate time, eliminating the need for aimless searching and delays.

  • Conflict resolution

Disputes are undeniably a significant and costly hindrance to the construction industry. However, the introduction of a shared information model instills remarkable transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.

In essence, any modification or addition to the existing design can be effortlessly traced back to the responsible individual, whether an architect or an engineer, ensuring that all project stakeholders remain well-informed and aligned, with clear and traceable responsibility attributed to every single one of them.

By promoting transparency and accountability, the shared information model effectively mitigates the risk of disputes, streamlining project execution and reducing associated costs.

  • Improving collaboration

Maintaining up-to-date project information among all stakeholders can be a challenge, and it often leads to excessive meetings and phone calls. 4D BIM, with its ability to visualize project progress, can significantly reduce the need for these time-consuming interactions. By providing a shared visual representation of the project’s status, 4D BIM facilitates effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders, enabling the seamless exchange of ideas and informed decision-making.

“Construction sequence animation” refers to the ability of 4D BIM software to showcase the state of the project in a specific time frame, relying on both BIM data and scheduling data in the process.

Adoption of 4D BIM

Like practically any other technology out there, 4D BIM is not a miracle technology that can make everything better just by existing. The implementation of BIM can be a rather sophisticated and long-running process, and the same could be said for the adoption of 4D BIM specifically.

The adoption process is, on the whole, different for almost every company out there. A good first step in the 4D BIM adoption process is to determine the specific benefits expected from a particular implementation. Examples of the potential benefits from the implementation of a 4D BIM model include:

  • Work management
  • Maintenance management
  • Support for procurement tasks
  • Reporting and tracking of improvements
  • Project verification before the construction phase
  • Health and safety concerns, and more.

These benefits are not mutually exclusive, and every company can expect multiple benefits from 4D BIM. However, the overall complexity of the implementation process also rises exponentially with the number of expected future benefits.

Popular use cases and project types for 4D BIM

The implementation of 4D BIM into a project brings some form of benefit in practically every single use case possible, but certain instances benefit the most from the introduction of the scheduling data:

  • 4D BIM scheduling facilitates the coordination of renovation activities in a manner that minimizes disruptions to existing building occupants and optimizes project timelines.
  • Projects such as bridge and road construction leverage 4D BIM scheduling to visualize intricate construction sequences, fostering timely project delivery and mitigating disruptions.
  • 4D BIM scheduling enhances the optimization of construction activity sequencing, effectively identifying potential clashes and promoting seamless coordination between project participants, which is an extremely important factor in high-rise building construction.

4D BIM vs 3D BIM

3D BIM is arguably the most widely adopted and well-understood BIM dimension among construction companies. Also known as the coordinated model, 3D BIM offers building information in both graphical and textual forms via a shared information space (the CDE).

3D BIM models are used throughout the project lifecycle, from schematic designs and design development to construction documentation and record drawings. By employing 3D BIM, construction companies can effectively communicate design updates to every single stakeholder, making sure that everyone’s information is always up-to-date.

Since 4D BIM essentially builds upon the existing 3D BIM data, every single advantage of 4D BIM mentioned above can be considered a point of difference between 3D BIM and 4D BIM. In essence, 4D BIM expands upon the existing 3D BIM model, making it more useful to everyone who is associated with the construction project.

4D BIM vs 5D BIM

5D BIM, the fifth dimension of building information modeling, integrates cost information into the BIM model, creating a 5D model that enables the generation of real-time cost estimates and financial representations of the project over time. This integration offers several benefits, including reduced time for quantity take-offs and estimation, improved accuracy of cost estimates, and an increased focus on value improvement as a whole.

Overall, 5D BIM is a powerful tool for improving cost management and decision-making throughout the construction project lifecycle, And this is its biggest difference compared to 4D BIM (budgeting data for 5D, scheduling data for 4D), along with the fact that 5D BIM needs a complete 4D BIM model to implement its own data, since every BIM dimensions past 3D BIM relies on the previous dimension, and every single previous step is essential for the entire model to be at its maximum efficiency.

Future effect of implementation of 4D BIM

4D BIM is transforming the construction industry by providing clear and comprehensive visualizations of project execution. This enhanced understanding empowers construction companies to effectively communicate project plans and strategies to colleagues, clients, and contractors, fostering collaboration and ensuring alignment throughout the project lifecycle.

As more companies embrace digital transformation initiatives, the adoption of 4D BIM technology is poised to accelerate, making it an indispensable tool for construction planning and management. The positive impact of 4D BIM is already evident in improved project outcomes, as it enables construction professionals to think creatively and identify innovative solutions, and the overall growing influence of 4D BIM shows no signs of stopping any time soon.


4D BIM can be used throughout the project lifecycle, offering significant value and impact during the early stages, particularly when evaluating the feasibility of project designs. It also proves beneficial during the tendering process, enabling a rapid understanding of project requirements and effectively showcasing methodology to potential clients. While the information gained in the early phases is high-level, it progressively evolves into detailed insight as the project advances.

It is essential to seamlessly integrate 4D BIM into the project planning culture, rather than treating it as a niche tool or an afterthought, to fully realize its transformative potential. 4D BIM should become the cornerstone of project planning, replacing traditional methods and tools. This shift requires a culture change within project teams to a mindset that embraces the power of 4D BIM to enhance planning efficiency and project outcomes.

Solutions like Revizto excel at supporting BIM implementation efforts, including with support for 4D BIM models. Revizto’s comprehensive scheduling module empowers project teams to work with construction schedules in an accessible and convenient fashion, fostering the clear visualization and comprehension of project timelines. Its cost module (5D BIM) complements this capability by providing real-time cost tracking and analysis, enabling project teams to effectively manage budgets and make accurate cost estimates. There is no need for multiple solutions to be used for project management tasks when Revizto can replace several of them at the same time with a single centralized solution, making it a great choice for companies of all shapes and sizes.

About the author
James Ocean

BIM/VDC Specialist. James Ocean is Head of BIMspiration at Revizto and keeps everything moving onwards and upwards. From supporting and teaching our internal team as well as our clients, James shows us the ins-and-outs and how to best leverage Revizto to maximize workflows, cut costs, and get all types of projects through the finish line.

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4D BIM: Definition & Benefits BIM as a whole has been slowly gaining the recognition it deserves, but the dimensions of BIM and its maturity levels are still not particularly well-known. Plenty of people associate capabilities such as 4D and 5D modeling with geometrical dimensions, but these terms are extremely different in the context of BIM, such as the 4D BIM model, which adds scheduling and other time-related data to a pre-existing BIM model. 2024-01-18
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