While the field of four-dimensional (4D) technology is mysterious and exciting, it remains in its early stages of development for a variety of reasons. While this may be true, the Australian construction industry has manipulated the 4D model to enhance their current maintenance plans to prevent the occurrence of unwanted environmental impacts during construction.
What is 4D Technology?
The primary difference that exists between three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) technology is the addition of the factor of time and motion to traditional 3D dimensions. The generation of 4D technology is a highly complex and difficult task that involves the incorporation of various vectors and geometrical coordinates within each of the four dimensions. While 3D objects closely represent what we recognize as life and reality, 4D technology is a much more abstract concept that cannot be easily visualized.
One of the most common applications of 4D technology can be found in the obstetrician’s office through the use of 4D ultrasounds, which monitor the fetus in real time, in addition to providing the parents and physician with a life-like and highly detailed view of the fetus. Some of the more recent attempts to integrate 4D technology into different applications has been documented in Australia, where construction companies have utilized this form of site modelling to more adequately plan projects and ensure the maintenance of environmental integrity in the surrounding areas of the construction site.
Current Limitations in Construction Planning
Throughout the preliminary planning stages of a construction project in Australia, various plans are made to guarantee minimal environmental impacts as a result of the construction. Some of the most common objectives of these management plans can include preventing the unnecessary loss of topsoil, as well as limiting sedimentation of onsite or nearby waterways, as this process is associated with expensive dredging that can result in nearby flooding or destroyed wetlands.
While Australia prides itself on their ability to effectively plan and manage their construction projects, they continue to face several challenges during the process. Many of these challenges are attributed to a lack of communication between project participants, negligence in identifying and monitoring the interdependencies that may exist between separate environmental management plans, as well as an overreliance on two-dimensional (2D) paper-based representations of the management systems.
Australia’s 4D Building Informational Modelling (BIM)
To overcome the challenges that the Australian construction industry often encounters in regard to adhering to their environmental management systems, 4D Building Informational Modelling (BIM) has been incorporated into the planning phase, as well as throughout the course of the construction project. 4D BIM, which encompasses 4D Modelling, 4D Planning and Scheduling and 4D Simulation, enhances to the traditional 3D construction model by adding a fourth element of a schedule into this aspect of pre-construction planning.
The three basic requirements for a 4D model includes the 4D geometric model with building components, the construction program that details activity data, estimated project durations and any important relationships, as well as a 4D simulation tool that is used to integrate these two aspects of the model. The integration of these two systems is entirely dependent on the ability of the model to accurately visualize the time and space relationships involved in the construction activities, analyze the construction schedule, reduce any potential errors of the construction plan and ultimately improve communication between project participants.
Benefits of the 4D Model
The application of 4D BIM into the construction planning phases has led to a significant improvement in work-space planning, safety planning, waste management and life cycle assessment of numerous construction projects in Australia. For example, 4D waste management by BIM has improved the ability of construction companies to adequately monitor and reduce their waste production, which ultimately benefits the environment, as well as the construction company be reducing their waste disposal costs. Several studies have supported the fact that traditional BIM and other prefabrication projects generate a significantly less amount of waste as compared to traditional construction management systems; therefore, the enhancement of BIM by adding 4D technology will inevitably follow this upward trend of environmental consciousness in the construction industry.