AU Focus: 4D, 5D, and 6+D BIM

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The transition from CAD to BIM was a paradigm shift. Instead of 2D digital drawings, you could create intelligent models that had, at a minimum, 3D geometrical information associated with every component. Building designs became data hubs.  

But the three dimensions of geometric space were just the beginning. Any kind of information can be associated with a BIM model, from scheduling and sequencing data to cost and carbon impact data, logistics data, operational data, sensor data, and more.  

With 4D, 5D, and 6+D BIM workflows, you can model not only what you’ll build, but how you’ll build it, how much it’ll cost, and what the environmental impact will be. Most importantly, you can do it all in the design phase, when it’s easiest and most cost effective to explore alternatives. 

4D BIM for scheduling and sequencing 

Construction is notoriously unpredictable, and schedule changes are common. By modeling and simulating the construction process in 4D BIM, you can plan how the components will go together and anticipate and resolve clashes before construction begins, providing a new level or predictability. The more complex your design and the more challenging the conditions you’ll be building in, the more carefully you can plan the process.  

An example of this was the construction on the Rothera Wharf for the British Antarctic Survey, which was featured in the General Session at AU 2022. The team from BAM, working with partners SWECO and Ramboll, had to build in Antarctica, the coldest, driest, place on Earth, thousands of miles from the nearest store or factory, and could only work on site during the six-month Antarctic summer. Any unplanned delays could mean pushing the schedule back to the following building season.  

So they went to extraordinary lengths to plan the work and stick to the schedule, including creating 4D construction simulations. They even assembled the prefabricated components of the wharf in the UK first just to be sure the plan would work, then took them apart and shipped them to the bottom of the world for final construction.  


Build your 4D planning skills with these AU sessions:  

  • Cecile Mathijsen showcases a workflow for 4D planning and simulation in Navisworks that can be used to anticipating potential clashes, visualize high-risk activities, and plan operational activities.   
  • Antonio Hipolito of Mota-Engil and Sebastian Zaje of Autodesk show you how to take project data into 4D and make time analysis a factor for success using the Autodesk Platform Services APIs and the scheduling capabilities in Microsoft Project. 


5D BIM and beyond—Cost estimation, carbon impact, and lifecycle analysis 

With 5D modeling, material costs are associated with assets so you can estimate and analyze budgets as you explore design options. And while there isn’t clear consensus about the exact definitions of 6D and 7D BIM, these other “Ds” can refer to operations data, building lifecycle data, and environmental impact data such as embodied carbon.  

Build your skills with these AU sessions:  


BIM is for more than just design, it's for decision support—a methodology that enables you to consider alternatives based on data and analysis, rather than simply on intuition and experience. Embracing the possibilities of 4D, 5D, 6+D BIM can help you make better decisions based on the factors that matter most to you—and drive the best outcomes for you and your stakeholders.