May 3, 2018


Most of us, even the ones not from the construction industry, are aware of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Nonetheless, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th dimensions of BIM is what some people find it difficult to get their head around.

As exciting as it sounds, these ‘dimensions’ have nothing to do with SpaceTime, or black holes, or anything out of an ‘Interstellar’  movie – it’s, more precisely, the levels of information in a given BIM data.

Picture credit: Interstellar (film)

BIM dimensions refer to a particular way in which different sorts of data is allied to with an information model. leveling up on these dimensions gives users a better understanding of their construction model; it provides information and details like how, when, for how much, etc.

It all starts with 2D BIM which is where your models have a simple X-axis and Y-axis and these are usually your hand or CAD drawings.


3 dimensional (3D) BIM, or a shared informational model, adds an additional “Z-axis” to the existing X and Y-axis. 3D BIM is perhaps, the most commonly known kind of BIM, a concept that most people are familiar with. It is the process of creating graphical and non-graphical information and sharing this information in the common data environment, widely known as CDE.

This helps participants to manage their multidisciplinary collaboration more effectively in modeling and analyzing complex structural problems. Furthermore, accurate data can be collected throughout the project lifecycle and stored in the Building Information Model – new values can be added to predictive models allowing to resolve issues proactively.


Going UP a level to the 4th dimension or 4D BIM, is taking a simple 3D BIM model, and applying the ‘TIME’ element to it. 4D BIM adds an additional dimension of information to a project and information model in the form of scheduling data. This data is added to the components that we build, in detail, as the project progresses.

The utilization of 4D-BIM technology can result in improved control over conflict detection or over the complexity of changes occurring during the course of a construction project as information can be used to obtain accurate program visualizations, showing you just how the project will develop sequentially. 4D BIM provides approaches for management and envisioning site status information, alteration impacts, as well as backing up communication in various situations such as informing site staff or cautioning them about potential threats.


Moving on, the 5th Dimension (5D) takes a simple 3D geometry and applies the ‘COST’ element to a project. This allows the participants to visualize the progress of their activities and estimates the overall costing associated with it, resulting in greater accuracy and feasibility of any given project.

As the cost managers are involved from the start of the project, this helps BIM managers and the design teams to realize exactly where they stand throughout the various stages of the project as this data can be queried at any given time, as long as the information is updated regularly in the software.

Comparing 5D with a traditional approach, where the cost reports aren’t updated as regularly and only a few times, that too only during the early stages of the project, can result in many modifications and changes in designs and/or material requirements. The cost manager may have to get used to working earlier and more iteratively than in a traditional process but if it means a more successful project outcome, then why not?


Finally, we come to the 6D BIM process also known as the ‘project life cycle information.’

6D is sometimes referred to as Facilities Management Where a model is created by the designer and updated throughout the construction phase, it will have the capacity to become an ‘as built’ model, which also can be turned over to the owner. The model will be able to contain all of the specifications, operation, and maintenance (O&M) manuals and warranty information, useful for future maintenance. This eliminates the problems that can be experienced if the O&M manual has been misplaced or is kept at a remote location.

This stage also requires capturing data, where relevant data is recorded throughout the operation phase of a building, enabling BIM to be used in a model, evaluating its energy efficiency, monitoring a building’s lifecycle cost and optimizing its cost efficiency. This also enables the owner to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of any proposed upgrades.

So there you go – now when you are reading about the dimensions of BIM, you will know exactly what each of them mean!

You’re welcome!

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