A Basic Knowledge About Tools And Techniques Architecture Essay


This literature view is to provide a basic knowledge about tools and techniques application for project information management in current construction practices. This paper will presents a better understanding about current tools and techniques for information management in project, especially Building Information Modelling and 4D Modelling in construction usage.

Firstly, the traditional information management processing should be introduce and with their potential problems and limitation. Secondly, this paper will present the existing tools and techniques which are applied in construction project information management. Furthermore, this literature view will focus on Building Information Modelling and 4D Modelling in project information management with its benefits and its barriers. In addition, to identify which tool or techniques are suitable for small, medium and large construction project based on comparison of these tools and techniques. Finally, based on Chinese construction contents, to identify which tools and techniques are appropriate applied in China.


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Project Information management (PIM) can be defined as a system for collection, coordinate, managing, storage and disseminate of construction projects information (Winch, 2002, pp.339-341; Lester, 2007). The fundamental principles of PIM is that based on specific information to organise communication and to ensure accurate and current project information is available at the right time in the right format to the right person. The benefits of information management a improve efficiency, effectiveness and reduce risk contingency in the whole project process.

2.1 Project Information Flow

Project information relates to the project life cycle, involves project briefing stage, design stage, planning stage and execution stage (Winch, 2002, pp.186-188).

The figure 2.1 shows the general project process in construction industry. In the briefing stage (A&B) the clients identified their ideas / requirement for the project and ensure the feasibility. The information process in this stage is iterative and divergent, to make a solution for briefing problems. Secondly, during the design stage (C), design teams to plan and produce design information. The consequence of design development is to produce drawings, specifications and bills quantity for the next stage. In this stage, information still iterative around briefing stage information, but concentrate to evaluate and select solution to design problem to achieve a comprehensive description of the project relevant information. Thirdly, during the construction stage (D), the information management becomes more complexly. Information in this stage involve relevant drawings, specifications, times, costs, connection with clients and suppliers, site facilities, technical and financial reports, meeting and conversation records, and other data. Information processing becomes mutual than design stage. Contactors need to associate with clients, designers, subcontractors and suppliers to ensure all information are accurate and ease acquisition, but mutual information still has insecurity factors for the on-site works, such as foundation and structural works on redesign project (Lester, 2007; Winch, 2002).

2.2 The development of information technologies

Techniques of information management have been developed since the 14th century where scale technical drawings were introduced to the industry. From this time, traditional information technologies were paper-based which project information only could be done by hard copy. However, the communication of certain documents may only be sent by mail or collected from relevance parties. Manual documental methods in construction industry play a main role still today. This type of technique is still using into communication over the project process. The limitation for this is that the drawings or documents are not accurate. It could not modify immediately and should redraft in processing.

During the 1970s, computer aided design (CAD) technologies had been developed a new drawing techniques which allowed drawings could be share and applied in other shareholders on design domains but information management still based on traditional information methods. However, the personal computer (PC) developed allows project stakeholders can share and applied in their own computer, especially the computer can be equipped on the site office which much improved the project information creative and storage (Winch, 2002, pp.342-343).

Over the last 20 year, information technologies have rapidly developing. There are many specifics software companies develop number of tools to reduce project's procedure and improve construction communication. Moreover, the internet developing allows stakeholders evaluate relevant information online without sit down together and communication becomes convenient (Winch, 2002, pp. 343). At the same time, there are many new specialist knowledge have been introduced to the industry which brings construction project becomes more complexity. In addition, financial, technical, Healthy &Safety, and environmental problems of the construction lead project risk becomes higher. As a result, there are lots of information integrates with the project processes due to information and knowledge are frequently be modified and substituted. (Gray & Hughes, 2001, pp.2-3).

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Therefore, there are a number of tools and techniques has developed and introduced to the construction industry for improve project information management.


The management of construction project is about management the project information. The specific tools and techniques have been developed for operation and communication of information on construction project. The common technical of PIM is Information and communication technologies (ICTs) which has been widely using in the industry today. It application in construction is essential for generation, storage and distribution of project information in computing electronic format (Winch, 2002, pp. 340).

In this section will introduce some typical tools and techniques for improve project information management.

3.1 CAD for design stage

Computer aided design (CAD) began as drafting programs for developing design documentation. CAD operated original in two-dimensional (2D) environment. 2D CAD allows working with a computer representation of geometry. The advantage of this is that designer can create drawings more easy and accurate in dimension. It can provide unlimited scaling capabilities. In addition, the drawings can be share and applied in structure, mechanical and electronic design domains (Maher, 2000). The development extended 2D CAD into 3D CAD which allows designer calculating and representing three-dimensional shape and solid. There are a lot of 3D software tools available in use today. In addition, perspective rendering is another technique for 3D. It allows presentation that adds light sources and material properties into 3D model (Maher, 2000).

The main merit of using CAD is that all drawings can be output and input in same format which allows stakeholders can share the design information in their own personal computer.

3.2 Construction management

The construction stage can be separate into two processes - planning and construction. The techniques of these processes are relied on traditional methods, such as Gantt chart for schedule, graphs and bar or pie charts but translate to digital format in today (Kymmell, 2008). The typical tools for the construction management is Microsoft Office Project and Excel which allows those traditional model represent into spreadsheets, diagrams and other representation of information.

3.3 Documental management tools

Accordance to the IT development, Email is become as the main communication method. The project data can be sent to other relevant stakeholders but this communication route only available for one to one or one to multiple stakeholders. In addition, Email just can delivery single data and cannot integrate with other data and with lack of security. It is difficultly to evaluate the information and data (Craig, 2006).

In the recent year, there is a new techniques has been introduced to the industry. Project extranets or calls extranets has been developed for more than 15 years. Extranets has been used as commercially system in the UK such as BIW Technologies and 4Projects. The extranets is likes a tool for acquiring and sharing project data in the internet-based driver (Wilkinson, 2005; BIW, no date). The benefits of using extranets are:

  • Better integrative of project stakeholder.
  • Information becomes more transparency and accountability. Because the audit trail is automatic recorded without disputes and the project key processes can be easy monitored.
  • Paper-based documents could be replaced by electronic documents which saving cost and time for printing, copying, distribution, storage and acquirement relevant project information.
  • More safety for information storage. The extranets can limits access-authority for users.
  • The information can be searched and reused.

3.4 Limitation of existing tools and techniques

There are some limitation and barriers of existing tools and techniques:

  • The scope of application for PIM tools only focus on differentiate stages such as design stage and construction preliminary stage, which ignore considered project management as a integrative entity. Most important is that few tools and techniques can be used for construction stage, such as progress, quality and cost controls.
  • Construction companies emphasise the using of tools and techniques in different stage process but without considered using an exclusive standard for planning, arrangement and management of project information (Liu, 2005).
  • Some construction companies are weak on their own information management. There are many redundant data and information had been repeatedly stored in their computer drivers which reflect on relative information can be share with other parties (Liu, 2007).
  • Project information is fragmented which cannot combine all information in one system for project members evaluate, discuss, estimate and criticize project data and information.
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Therefore, building information modeling as a new form techniques can improve and consummate solve the existing tools and techniques' limitations in project information management.



Four-dimensional computer aided design (4D CAD) is a new technique has been researched and applied in the field of construction since 1990s. This report is an investigative paper, presents the development of 3D and 4D simulations the field of construction firstly. The development of this technique including commercially, research and development areas are revealed. Several current 3D and 4D commercially software tools are analysed in second section includes two case studies. The benefits and limitations of 4D are discussed. In the end, the report talks about 4D technique impacts construction and the supply chain.

5.1 Development of Technique

The technology of construction design and planning has been developed for long time. Due to the computer science developing, the traditional technique has been trended to visualization realities from manual drawing.

5.2 4D CAD

Four-dimensional computer aide design (4D CAD) is a new technique combining with 3D models and construction processing in another mean is time. 2D and 3D improve construction design more quality and efficient. 3D development provides the foundation for 4D CAD in the field of construction management. 4D CAD led the abstract project planning can be presented directly and imaginative in simulation.

In 1984, CAS Inc developed PM-Vision which used 3D model to develop a database for construction (CSA, no date). The first developed 3D CAD models link to construction schedules was created in 1986-87 by Bechtel and Hitachi Ltd. They developed 4D Planner software. The 4D model creates by linking the schedule to the 3D CAD model to showing which pieces of the project will be constructed in sequence (Yerrapathruni, 2003)

In 1990's, 4D CAD has been increasingly developed around in commerce and research. Jacobus Technology developed and marketed a 4D simulation system called Construction Simulation Toolkit (CST) in 1992 (Yerrapathruni, 2003). CST allows user import CAD data from AutoCAD and Micostation combining with schedule data.

The Centre for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) of Stanford University begins academic research in 1994. CIFE started the first project research in the San Mateo County Health Facility which developed 4D model to communicate in the four-year construction. After the first project, CIFE continued to research related to 4D models. CIFE plays a leader role in 4D research area. Following CIFE, the academic research started in UK and Finland.

In UK, the research project of the Virtual Construction Site (VIRCON) which is a collaborative project between University College London, Teeside University, The University of Wolverhampton and eleven construction companies, was funded by UK government. The aim of project is to generate a tool allow planners to trade off the temporal sequencing of tasks with their spatial distribution. In University of Wolverhampton, Dr. David Heesom published Technology Opportunities and Potential for The Virtual Construction Site in 2002.

In 2000's, several commercial 4D software tools have been produced to construction industry. In the next section will take about the commercial software tools.

5.3 Existing Software analysis

From 2000, 4D technique has been developed rapid. There are a various results of research are published and commercially available software tools are produced such as common Point project 4DTM, JetStream TimelinerTM, Revit ArchitectureTM and xD Virtual BuilderTM. All 4D technique tool can export video format files for usage.

5.3.1. Common Point Project 4DTM - Common Point Int.

Common Point Project 4D was presented in 1999 by Common Point, Inc. It originated from the research activities undertaken at the Centre for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) at Stanford University, USA (Heesom & Mahdjoubi, 2004). Project 4D is a construction simulation software tool that links schedule activities to 3D components. Project 4D's main feature is 4D playback, which allows the user to sequence construction issues according to a schedule for simulating construction events in chronological order. Common Point developed this system in recognition of the realization that the user to better communicate, plan and analyse construction activities throughout the project lifecycle.

The Project 4D import 3D data from common industry format, such as AutoCAD ArchiCAD, Microstation and 3D MAX. The schedule data can be imported from Primavera, SureTrak, Expedition, MS Project, Excel, comma or tab-delimited files.

However, Woolley (2007) argues that Project 4D works only with VRML CAD models (WRL and RAW file formats) and tends to limit it to architectural rather than engineered in construction applications. In addition, it does not allow user modify the 3D models in the 4D system.

5.3.2. JetStream TimelinerTM - Navisworks

JetStream Timeliner is developed by Navisworks. It is enable 3D model data to be linked with project software for create 4D visualisation of construction schedule. This software allows user showing all tasks occurring in the interval period, to ensure small tasks occurring between interval points in the project does not miss in 4D simulation. The software allows imports most CAD format from, such as AutoCAD (.dwg, .dxf, .sat), 3D Studio (3ds .prj), SketchUp (.skp) and Navisoworks (.nwd .nwf .nwc). The project schedule software and formats supported by JetStream TimeLiner is PowerProject, MS Project and Primavera. Timeliner provides extension that allows text, site tasks and process showing in simulation. The behavior of the task simulation is configurable and the display can be customized. (Navisworks, no date)

According to Khemlani (2004), the biggest limitation of Timeliner is perspective. The display of model is a generic geometry-based solution. The price show in the website of Timeliner is 1250 dollars. If the user want to buy whole the JetStream package in total is 8450 dollars. It is quite expensive for most construction industry firms. Revit ArchitectureTM- Autodesk

Revit Architecture was developed by Autodesk. This software based on Autodesk research that called Building Information Modelling (BIM). The theory of BIM is covers geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components. BIM can be used to demonstrate the entire building lifecycle including the processes of construction and facility operation (Wikipedia, no date). The concept of BIM is similar with 4D. Using Revit Architecture provides user record and review entire project from design period to construct period coordinating plans, schedules, and construction documents in visual. (Autodesk, no date)

Compare with other commercial 4D software, Revit can create 3D model in the system. Due to Autodesk strength, using with Autodesk Software, Revit can provides detailed plans and renders of elevations. However, without Autodesk Software it could import other common software. It is mean that project schedule data should be created in original technique. The users ought to spend a lot of time to understand and the software Standard single user price is up to 4000 pounds.

5.4 Benefits and future

3D and 4D simulation has been used in construction industry. 3D simulation is popular in architectural and structural design. Designer can produce an attractive model in detail level, use it to present their design and communicate with other design parties. However, 3D simulation in construction management is not useful. Most 3D software are attentive the feature of rendering. In real time simulation, it could not generated 3D model link with other construction activities. To undertaken a successful 3D model need user expend much strength in training and understanding software because of a lot features and functions should be used in.

In long history traditional construction, planning tools such as bar chart and network diagrams are abstract for most people. To understand the project planning need people study its and practise. According to Fischer (2002), 4D models combine 3D CAD models with project schedule and other project information to show a visual model for technical and non-technical stakeholders in understanding, analyzing and communicating a design and construction schedule. In communication of project, 4D model provides a visual simulation for all coordinators such as designers, clients, contractors and builder to understand the project effective. For example, Walt Paradise Pier' GC only spent 2 days to understand the entire project sequence. By using 4D, project developers can evaluate the sequence, process, construction methods and risk in construction project. In addition, detail 3D and 4D modelling can reduce the waste of materials and resources. The 4D model also support user gauge materials quantity and deliver time. Finally, 4D create a platform for designers and contactors to review and stakeout the progress in construction.

Although 4D CAD has advantages in construction management, most 4D software tools just simple combine with 3D model and schedule, as play mesosphere. These software tools could not provide supplementary function for construction management. The other functions such as cost, materials information, rendering, and human resource could not present in 4D model. In the practical construction applications, 4D CAD must rely on complex 3D models, the limitation of it obviously.

4D development trend could be including:

  • Improve the 4D CAD exporting in same format
  • Reduce 3D model creating time.
  • Improve the rendering capability of 3D model in 4D CAD.
  • Integrate construction cost and material information, constitutes to 5D CAD, indeed nD CAD system.

To improve the features of 4D technique need researcher in Substantial exploration and research. Some organizations such as CIFE and ARUP are starting to develop 4D CAD in usage in construction.


Everett M. Rogers (1962) classified customers as follows:

Innovators. Those who like to be first to own the latest products. These consumers predominate at the beginning of the product life cycle.

Early adopters. Those who are open to new ideas, but like to wait a while after initial launch. These consumers predominate during the growth phase of the PLC.

Early majority. Those who buy once the product is thoroughly tried and tested. These consumers predominate in the early part of maturity phase of PLC.

Late majority. Those who are suspicious of new things, and wait until most other people already have one. These consumers predominate in the later part of the maturity phase of PLC.

Laggards. Those who only adopt new products when it becomes absolutely necessary to do so. These consumers predominate in the decline phase of PLC.



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  10. BIW Technologies (no date) Document Management [online].[cite on 1 January 2010]