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Improving construction planning through 4D planning

Chris Allen (Department of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa)
John Smallwood (Department of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology

ISSN: 1726-0531

Article publication date: 28 March 2008




Construction planning will play an increasingly more critical role within the realm of the built environment due to the unprecedented growth in the industry and a general skills shortage. Existing practices are failing to deliver the desired results for construction companies and clients alike. The increasing availability of 3D models has facilitated their use in a process known as 4D planning, allowing the visual planning of activities including the communication of logistical and other interfaces. The purpose of the research was to better understand the implementation of such a process, and determine the benefits thereof.


A survey of the literature was followed by an observation/participation case study. A further survey of construction personnel was conducted to provide data to inform opinion's generated during the case study.


The results of the research suggest that 4D planning provides the tools for visualising the process implications in creating 3D reality whilst facilitating the improved coordination, communication and delivery of a project to programme.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of the study emanate from a single project environment, namely a case study, and therefore further research should be undertaken to substantiate and validate the findings.


The findings have major implications in that the benefits of the use of 4D planning have been documented. Consequently, clients need to mandate the use of 3D in the design phase, to enable design phase information to be used downstream for planning, off‐site pre‐fabrication and facilities management. Contractors need to use 4D models to evaluate their critical activities, maximise the use of labour and materials, and communicate the site‐based planning process.



Allen, C. and Smallwood, J. (2008), "Improving construction planning through 4D planning", Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 7-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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