image of a building facility BIM interior

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an innovative method for designing, constructing, and managing built assets. It involves creating a virtual model that holds all pertinent information about an asset, including its physical and functional attributes. BIM facilitates collaboration, coordination, and communication among all stakeholders involved in the asset’s lifecycle. 

BIM is more than just creating a 3D model. It includes dimensions like time, cost, sustainability, safety, and operations in the virtual model. BIM enables project teams to collaborate on a unified platform for data creation and management across the entire lifecycle of an asset. This encompasses design, construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning. With BIM, stakeholders can access precise information at any time, leading to improved decision-making and reduced risks of errors or delays. 

As technology advances, we may see the addition of more dimensions to BIM, enhancing its capabilities. However, it’s important to note that the success of BIM depends not only on the number of dimensions used but also on the effective integration of relevant data and collaboration among stakeholders. BIM will continue to evolve and play a vital role in shaping the future of the built environment. 

In this guide, we delve into the dimensions of BIM and provide construction teams with the necessary knowledge to effectively utilize this technology. 

What is a BIM dimension, and how does each one work? 

A BIM dimension represents different levels of information or data integration in a BIM model. Each dimension adds complexity and detail to the modelling process, making the BIM model more useful throughout the lifecycle of a structure. 

Navigating the possibilities of BIM can be overwhelming, especially when we start bringing in various BIM dimensions—3D, 4D, 5D, 6D, 7D, and 8D. Let’s take a closer look at each of these dimensions and how they contribute to creating a comprehensive BIM model: 

  • 3D: The most basic dimension, representing the physical geometry and spatial relationships of an asset. 
  • 4D: Adds the element of time, allowing for simulation and visualization of the construction process. 
  • 5D: Includes cost information, allowing for budgeting and estimating throughout the lifecycle of an asset. 
  • 6D: Incorporates sustainability factors such as energy efficiency and environmental impact, enabling better decision-making for a greener and more sustainable built environment. 
  • 7D: Adds operational data such as maintenance schedules and equipment information to the virtual model, facilitating efficient asset management. 
  • 8D: The latest addition to BIM dimensions, includes safety information and enables risk assessment and hazard analysis. 

3D BIM: Shape 

3D is the core and most widely used aspect of BIM. It represents the basic structure of a building, like an advanced version of a 2D drawing. While drawings have an X and Y-axis, 3D BIM adds the Z-axis. With 3D BIM, you can create and visualize the building’s design, including walls, floors, roofs, and other architectural elements, along with their physical properties. The model is stored in a common data environment (CDE), allowing teams to collaborate in the cloud with updated information. Clash detection is a great application of 3D BIM, automatically identifying and resolving design conflicts, saving time and money during the preconstruction phase of the project. 

4D BIM: Scheduling 

4D BIM incorporates time into the 3D BIM model, allowing users to visualize the construction sequence and plan projects more effectively. By linking the project timeline to the model, you can see how the building will evolve over time and when different components will come together. This adds predictability to your projects. Additionally, 4D BIM is practical for project managers as it helps them plan and manage the construction schedule more efficiently. Viewing the construction timeline in the context of the 3D model allows project managers to easily identify scheduling issues and overlaps. 

5D BIM: Estimating and cost data 

5D BIM enhances 3D and 4D BIM by incorporating cost and estimating data into the model. It provides a visual and time-based representation of the project, along with cost-related information. This powerful tool enables budget management and cost analysis, allowing teams to better understand the overall project cost. With 5D BIM, costs can be automatically calculated based on materials, labour, and other resources associated with the 3D model elements. This saves time, optimizes resource allocation, and helps prevent cost overruns. 

6D BIM: Sustainability 

6D BIM integrates environmental data into the model. This sixth dimension enhances previous models to optimize the building’s environmental performance. It considers the entire lifecycle of the building, including energy consumption and environmental impact. During the design and planning stage, 6D BIM helps teams evaluate different design options and identify the most sustainable approach. It also assists in operations and maintenance, streamlining asset management by providing detailed information about components such as lifespan, maintenance schedules, and replacement costs. This helps teams manage energy systems, HVAC, lighting, and other elements that affect the building’s environmental footprint. 

7D BIM: Facility management 

7D BIM encompasses operational and facility management, integrating asset status, warranty information, technical specifications, and operating manuals into the model. This dimension of BIM facilitates planning, scheduling, and optimization of maintenance tasks throughout the building’s lifecycle. Contractors and subcontractors can utilize 7D BIM to catalogue crucial building components and equipment, including replacement parts and specifications. It also enables predictive maintenance by leveraging facility data to identify potential issues in advance, allowing for proactive maintenance. Overall, 7D BIM is an effective tool for maintaining structures as it reduces issues, lowers costs, and minimizes disruptions to building operations. 

8D BIM: Safety 

8D BIM integrates health, safety, and welfare considerations into the BIM process. It includes various construction site elements such as equipment, signage, machinery, scaffolding, and more. While a relatively new dimension of BIM, 8D BIM has the potential to greatly improve job sites. Teams can use it to identify safety hazards and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. Moreover, 8D BIM can simulate construction processes in a virtual environment to assess worker safety on-site. By leveraging the right data, 8D BIM can streamline the implementation of safety measures and reduce incidents. 

What lies beyond 8D BIM? 

From its origins in 3D modelling, BIM has made significant progress and continues to advance. New dimensions are emerging, like 9D BIM, which focuses on lean construction. The aim is to eliminate inefficiency and waste by applying lean principles, such as value stream mapping, to construction projects. Another dimension is 10D BIM, which specifically targets industrialized construction. With digital models, 10D BIM has the potential to enhance off-site construction methods and prefabrication. 

Charting BIM’s future: Navigating beyond 8D dimensions 

As technology advances and new use cases for Building Information Modelling (BIM) are discovered, the potential to leverage models throughout the entire construction lifecycle is growing rapidly. The integration of virtual reality, drones, and augmented reality is just the beginning of the BIM evolution. These emerging technologies are transforming the way we design, construct, and maintain buildings. 

With the increasing demand for sustainable and efficient construction projects, BIM is poised to remain at the forefront of innovation in the industry. By continuously expanding its dimensions and capabilities, BIM can enable construction companies to achieve new levels of precision, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness. Whether optimizing energy performance or ensuring regulatory compliance – by embracing this transformative technology, we can create smarter, more sustainable, and more resilient cities for future generations. 

Get started with PlanRadar’s BIM management software today.