Without a doubt, BIM (building information modeling) is a word that almost always comes up when getting into a discussion about technology in the construction industry. This is coming into play even more today as 4D scheduling and 5D estimating are becoming an even larger part of the conversation.

Most construction professionals still associate BIM with the physical models, but the truth is BIM is really more of a process than a technology. Today technology providers are coming to market with software that allows contractors to do more than just modeling. The technology available today incorporates scheduling and estimating into the models.

Take for example, the newest version of Vico Office Release 3 from Vico Software, www.vicosoftware.com, Boulder, Colo.

The company says its construction solution transforms 3D models into ‘information powerhouses’ where construction companies can integrate quantities, 4D scheduling data, and 5D cost estimating data. These advances will allow construction companies to assess how the schedule and cost will impact changes on the projects.

Scheduling and estimating are key components to any project, as time and money are two of the most important elements in construction. Being able to look at the BIM model and assess the schedule and cost could make a big difference for construction companies.

Still, 4D scheduling and 5D estimating are rarely used in the construction industry today. This could be due in part to the fact that the solutions in the past have typically been ‘best of breed,’ so to speak, where one solution provides good 3D modeling and another provides good 4D scheduling. This becomes quite costly for construction companies to implement all the dimensions of BIM, meaning most companies just stick to the tried-and-true 3D modeling for clash detection and coordination. The good news is the technology is advancing.

The Vico solution is distinctive because it combines 3D BIM for visualization, clash detection, and quality takeoff; 4D BIM for scheduling and production control; and 5D BIM for estimating and cost control in one solution. Other technology providers such as Innovaya, www.innovaya.com, Oregon City, Ore., are also making similar strides and offer a solution to enable 3D, 4D, and 5D BIM.

The technology for BIM is advancing, and it is time the construction industry takes notice. These days, 4D and 5D BIM are becoming more of a reality in the industry as a way to more effectively manage cost and schedule. The savvy contractors recognize this and aren’t just emulating the 3D best practices; they are getting ahead of the competition and implementing 4D and 5D BIM.

It will be interesting to see what the technology providers develop next. Hopefully, some will recognize the needs of the operations side and will incorporate lifecycle facilities management into the BIM process—what some in the industry are now coining 6D BIM.