image of 3D mockup of a building with drawing plans to showcase the differences between VDC and BIM.

3D, 4D, 5D, VDC and BIM Explained

Paul TiceVirtual Design and Construction Leave a Comment

Every industry has its unique lingo and acronyms. Our industry is not immune to it, either. Just look at AEC. Yep, there’s a point there.

Some websites are fully dedicated to uncovering a portion of the acronyms and abbreviations in the industry.

As the industry continues to trend towards the digital side of things, even more acronyms pop up. VDC and BIM, 3D, 4D, and 5D are just a few of the ones thrown around during all phases of a construction project.

They’re used at various points of the process, but there are still questions as to what they are and when you should utilize them, and why? Are they toys and distractions that keep you from delivering a project?

If you want to understand the differences between these modeling acronyms, keep reading. We’re going to uncover the basics behind all of them.

Understanding the Fundamentals: 3D, 4D, 5D, VDC and BIM

Let’s start by uncovering the acronyms and the basic definitions of these terms.

You’re probably the most familiar with BIM or Building Information Modeling. BIM is a digital version of a construction project. BIM is widely seen and used to generate reports and clash detection.

There are typically two types of BIM, and as you’ll see later, you’ll learn how all of these acronyms tie together.

The first type of BIM is construction BIM. Construction BIM includes the plans, construction materials, and budgets.

Then there’s the performance side of things. This is Performance BIM, which includes how a building’s energy consumption performs, air quality, and acoustics.

Think of BIM as the foundation for everything else. Everything starts with an accurate digital model with the key component from the middle initial, “information”.

VDC stands for virtual design and construction. It also has a digital representation of a building, but it covers the entire lifecycle of a project.

Is there a difference between VDC and BIM? There are a lot of similarities between the two. Where they differ is in how they’re used.

BIM is primarily used for clash detection reports and eventually as-builts. While BIM as a process and as a 3D model has the capability to track schedule and costs, those functions are often at a higher VDC program level. What VDC does is broaden the scope of the project to the point where you can have things like schedule and cost tracking to include digital rehearsals (4D sequencing), especially for complex installations.

VDC also offers additional layers like financial management, process control, new design coordination with the model, and facility management, so you can truly manage the entire lifecycle of the building efficiently.

3D Modeling

3D modeling is primarily used in the design and planning phase of a project. You still have a digital model of a building or project. The focus of the digital model is on the physical characteristics of a building.

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Construction BIM, doesn’t it? Yes, it does, but here’s where they differ.

BIM is a process, while 3D modeling is for understanding the spatial characteristics of a project. BIM files are much larger because they contain many more details.

4D Construction Simulation

What if you had a 3D model and added scheduling to it? That’s what a 4D construction simulation does. This is perfect for things like resource allocation and identifying potential conflicts.

5D Cost Estimation

How many projects have you worked on where the budget information was inaccurate or it was impossible to forecast anything?

Your budgeting and forecasting problems get solved with 5D modeling. You and your team have access to real-time data about the equipment, materials, and labor.

As you can see, all of these terms work from the same model. Each dimension adds a layer to the model, everyone involved with the project can see potential issues and mitigate them.

It’s so much more than just clash detection, isn’t it? As you add each layer to the model, it’s critical to keep the information fresh for the most accurate data.

Dispelling Misconceptions: The Real Value of BIM and VDC

It’s normal to look at something like technology and resist it because you don’t want to change your current workflows that have worked for years.

Many in the industry think of BIM, VDC, and their multidimensional counterparts as distractions or unnecessary investments. These things bring tangible value to any project.

Enhanced Efficiency

These models streamline the processes to design and as-built phases. You know that clash detection can help you spot issues before they happen. You and your team avoid reworks and costly mistakes.

Improved Collaboration

In a world where everyone is used to working in silos, these models help break them down. BIM and VDC give you a shared platform where everyone has access to the same data.

This includes engineers, designers, architects, and project managers. You can share this data with project owners, so everyone has the same set of expectations. This reduces confusion and projects are better coordinated.

Informed Decision-Making

Project stakeholders no longer have to struggle to make a decision based on limited or inaccurate information. These models give you real-time data, so you can evaluate design possibilities, assess the viability of a design idea, and optimize the overall performance of the project.

Cost and Schedule Certainty

It’s nice to have certainty in an uncertain world, isn’t it? You can’t guarantee it 100%, but you can get pretty certain about the costs and sequencing of a model.

You just need to incorporate 4D and 5D modeling into your BIM model. You’ll have more control over the costs and schedules.

These dimensions will give you better budget management, improved financial outcomes for owners, and mitigate project risks.

VDC and BIM Best Practices

To fully leverage the benefits of VDC, BIM, 3D, 4D, and 5D, you’ll want to follow the principles and best practices of implementing the various dimensions, VDC and BIM.

The main thing is to understand each dimension and how they would apply and add value to your project.

If you’re not sure, work with a VDC consultant who has the experience and expertise in modeling. They can develop a plan and SOPs that ensure your project has the data and resources required during each phase.

That being said, you’ll need to invest in training, hardware, and software tools to make sure team members have the resources and knowledge to create and use data effectively.

VDC SOPs are critical to have on a project because they create uniform processes for every aspect of model creation and data analysis.

This facilitates the flow of information, and control of data, and ensures transparency and collaboration.

You can make decisions from the various models and progress reports so your project goes smoothly. Working with an integrated approach helps with quality control and accuracy.

Overcoming Challenges and Resistance to Change

Why don’t more companies utilize VDC and BIM? A multi-dimensional approach to modeling has a ton of benefits, but there are a lot of challenges and obstacles that get in the way of implementation.

The main concerns are the upfront costs. Yes, this should be a concern, but you have to look at the return on investment. If you utilize these processes on each project, you can be sure to have a profitable business.

Stakeholders might not want to deal with VDC and BIM because of the complexity of it or you might not want to disrupt workflows that have worked with you for so long.

The two best ways to overcome the challenges and obstacles are to sell the value of multi-dimensional modeling and provide training.

The best way to sell the idea is to demonstrate the ROI. It’s rare for a project not to see an improvement in profitability.

Invest in training and support so your team knows how to use these tools effectively. Yes, they’re complex, but ongoing support makes everyone a bit more willing to change.

The Next Dimensions: The Future of Modeling In the AEC Industry

As modeling gains traction and reaches critical mass, there are early adopters already implementing the next dimensions in modeling.

That’s right, there are more dimensions on the horizon. These are 6D and 7D modeling and these possibilities for the future of construction and lifecycle management.

6D Modeling

The construction industry generates more than a third of carbon emissions across the world. Nearly half of the construction companies prioritize sustainable building practices.

If your company is one of them, you’ll want to invest in 6D modeling. This adds the dimension of energy performance to a model. You’ll be able to see a building’s energy performance, life cycle analysis, carbon footprint, and other environmental and design factors.

This information is critical in the design process because you can model the energy performance and make the best decisions to improve overall building efficiency.

7D Modeling

As you learned earlier, the modeling dimensions get used primarily during the design and as-built phases. What happens when a project is complete?

Then the main concerns are facility management and maintenance.

7D modeling includes that information in the model. You can access data related to asset management, and maintenance schedules, and have end-of-life information built into the model.

That gives stakeholders an edge because they can see operational data and optimize performance before the facility manager starts his duties.

The other advantage is that critical data doesn’t get lost if there’s turnover. A new facility manager doesn’t have to start from scratch because all of the information they need is there.

Both 6D and 7D modeling have the power to help the construction industry create sustainable, efficient, and well-managed structures.

The future of modeling is here, and we’re just getting started exploring all of the possibilities.

Modeling Acronyms, VDC, and BIM Explained

3D, 4D, 5D, VDC, and BIM are so much more than distractions or things that are nice to have. These are necessary tools that add tremendous value to any project. With BIM at the core of your modeling forecasts, you can have project certainty, which is a rarity in the industry.

Project owners will have a better experience, and you’ll get more work as a result because you can deliver projects with very few issues.

If you’re ready to drive your construction business forward, contact the team at ToPa 3D to learn about our VDC consulting services.

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