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‘5D BIM’s influence on MEP installation is a particular effective process process enhancement’

Anilesh Kumar speaks on how 5D BIM involves the creation of an elaborate and detailed digital model to ensure that the entire construction process, from design to execution, is data-driven and empowered by a project-wide transparency

| | Sep 15, 2019 | 10:05 pm
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Anilesh Kumar

The ‘Dabbawallas’ of Mumbai, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, have been in continuous commercial operation since 1885. Undeterred by natural calamities, political protests or terrorist attacks, they have grown steadily to reach a scale that consistently completes 400,000 transactions a day, within a three-hour window. Their spokesmen have been invited to address a Stanford University delegation to India; the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), on multiple occasions; the National Stock Exchange in Mumbai; the Reserve Bank of India and several of the world’s leading multinational corporations. Using a mere six layers of brief alphanumeric code, the Dabbawalla system coordinates a workforce with a middle-school education, on average, to a Six Sigma quality adherence, which corresponds to less than 3.4 errors per million opportunities.

Little wonder, then, that the Dabbawallas, who deliver mid-day meals to office workers from their homes, and return the empty lunchboxes to their point of origin with unerring precision, day after day, are a much-feted lot. Given the seemingly basic methodology, the time constraints and the possibility of human error, the success rate of the operation is positively staggering. Especially given how stringent and coveted the quality standard awarded to the operation is, even for the largest budgetary allocations in the business world, to replicate. The secret, of course, is collaboration, aided by an intuitive and well designed ‘interface’ and system.

The complex intricacies involved in the construction industry might have far more variables to consider than a lunch delivery operation, but the power of unifying a diverse workforce and multiple process mechanisms has the same process-empowering effect within its context, as well. Once an industry known to be comparatively less keen on the adoption of digital solutions, the contemporary construction industry has been doing everything to put that reputation to rest conclusively. One state-of-the-art digital enhancement steadily assuming the status of a standard industry practice is 5D BIM. An innovation that is redefining how projects are managed, its influence on MEP installation is a particularly effective process enhancement.


The ‘BIM’ in 5D BIM is an acronym of Business Information Modelling. It involves the creation of an elaborate and detailed digital model to ensure that the entire construction process, from design to execution, is data-driven and empowered by a project-wide transparency. BIM provides the construction industry with a means to document the fabrication processes and outcomes. The ‘5D’ in the term is a reference to the extension of a 3D model, by the inclusion of time and cost as additional ‘dimensions’, to be monitored and optimised. The 5D BIM approach ensures that businesses can correlate design elements to their impact on time and cost, to limit negatives and retain operational control.

A means to enable lean and empowered processes, the aims of 5D BIM are to increase the accuracy of design, enhance the ability
to correlate design with time and cost elements and to foster the creation of highly efficient workflow to avoid delays and overruns. The fundamental idea it is based on is enhanced productivity through the integration of information, empowered communication and the elimination of errors from design to completion phases. It aids MEP installation processes through the ability to use a greater number of prefabricated elements and through enabling more efficient onsite workforces as well as improved safety. Detailed and coherent digital modelling results in fewer and more specific RFIs and change orders, the optimisation of schedules and a streamlined workflow for the critical fabrication process. 5D BIM modelling also ensures that any issues relating to MEP installation can be easily identified and prevented from causing cascading negatives. By unifying data across the elements of design, budget and schedule, several bottlenecks can be eliminated, and project management can be made dramatically more responsive and effective. Another important advantage that 5D BIM confers on construction projects is Clash Detection, which is a component of the modelling process that is able to anticipate conflicts or clashes among individual outcomes within the project, be they structural or MEP in nature. This is achieved by the creation of BIM execution plans for each aspect of the project and the creation of an overall model, using BIM modelling software and BIM integration tools.


The granular detail that 5D BIM provides MEP workforces and contractors is further built upon by uniform reporting, standardised estimation and process optimisation. With the additional influence of AI and Machine Learning, which retain insights from all previous projects and continually refines them to benefit future ones, this crucial construction process will only get smarter and more efficient. An MEP installation that proceeds under the watchful eyes of a unified and data-empowered platform is not only optimal during fabrication, but it also adds to the highest standards in building performance during the infrastructure’s entire lifecycle. With 7D BIM – which adds sustainability and facilities management considerations to the mix, as two additional dimensions or ‘D’s – already on its way, the digital transformation of the construction industry, and its individual functional aspects, such as MEP installation, are set to scale even higher peaks. In an important industry involving diverse stakeholders and complex interdependent outcomes, digital modelling is emerging as the overarching means to deliver consistent quality and best practices.


CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.

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