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What is 5D BIM and How Is it Changing the Way We Approach Projects?

5D takes BIM to the next level.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a multi-layer process for designing, planning and spec-ing a project, and for managing and sharing information about it across stakeholders and throughout the project lifecycle.

BIM starts with an intelligent 3D digital model of the building. While CAD is the lines of the building in a digital universe, BIM is the actual building (or buildings), down to the pipes, in a digital, malleable, nearly tactile environment.

With BIM, everybody is playing from the same sheet music, and communication —something many contractors consider a weak link in the building process — is practically built-in.

5D takes BIM to the next level. It adds cost and time into the equation and makes asking complicated if/then questions — if we change this (and that, and the other thing), or there’s a weather delay, or the subcontractor is late, what are the costs and the effects on the schedule?— easier to answer.

“It helps a project come in on budget, on time and be consistent with what we designed to begin with,” said architect and project manager Zachary Stoltenberg, AIA of Tevis Architects in Topeka, Kansas. “In the end, the client is always happier when all those things happen.”

Any builder knows cost is often the trickiest part of the process, with so many layers adding to the bottom line. Accurate and fast pricing is one of the primary benefits of 5D BIM vs. 3D BIM. 5D BIM helps cost estimators build historical data sets for current and future projects.

“During construction, 5D BIM also helps me ‘lock’ a phase of the project,” said Stoltenberg. “So on a fast-track project like I’m on right now, they’re pouring foundations while we are still designing the upper parts of the building. I can lock the footings and foundations in the software so if I make a change to the upper part of the building, I will know if it conflicts with what exists in the real world.”

After the project’s done, 5D BIM can be handed off to the client. A building or facility manager can use it to track and refine everything from energy consumption to the pricing of future improvements.

In construction, time is money and money is, well, everything. 5D BIM can help maximize both.                          

Mark Clement ( is a tool expert, licensed contractor, author and tradeshow and live event presenter.

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