Automating Construction Progress Monitoring and Communication



The 4D AR is a very powerful technique to empower the relation between construction project management and the 3D visualization of construction sequence, as I consider it as the future of 4D simulation and the 4D itself as the current standard of project control.

1.The 4D BIM applications (Desktop software):

The 4D BIM software are well established and are widely used for enabling construction practitioners to make informed decisions that induce a reduction in time delays and enable identification of clashes early in the project life cycle, also the 3D and 4D applications/software have distinct differences for visualization. 3D BIM enables the user to visualize a building model. 4D BIM advances this bycombining schedule related information with the 3D model and enables the user to visualize the process in which the building model will progress.

Today there are a variety of desktop computer programs that are engineered for 4D BIM simulation. The attached table lists some of the more common 4D BIM tools that currently have a wide use in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry today.

For the detailed comparison between the 4D desktop software :

 2.BIM and Mobile Technology :

With the improvement of smart mobile technology and the constant development trend of so called mobile applications (apps), the construction industry is considering the potential of mobile BIM. Not only are apps portable, but through improved visualization software and sensory features these mobile platforms have become relatively easy to use . Applications such as Synchro Site ,Autodesk 360Autodesk Sketchbook, Magicplan are just a few recent mobile applications that have been specifically developed for use in the AEC industry and are currently used in practice today.

Synchro Site  takes your 4D master construction model to the field so everyone can visually review and understand the activities of the project. Also track progress of  activities and resources in real-time from their iPads directly back to the master model with a tap of a finger, add notes or attach photos. ( )

Autodesk 360 provides a full stereoscopic view of a 3D BIM simulation and is operational on both smart phone and tablet platforms , Autodesk Sketchbook provides drawing tools for Architectural concept development and is suitable for when the architect requires an en suite of sketch tools to draw out ideas on site . Magic plan has gained a lot of attention in the apple marketplace as being a leading tool for architectural design for its use in quickly dimensioning interiors and developing 2D Plans using mobile sensory information. 


Mixed reality is a sub-class within virtual simulation technology, where digitized objects are merged with real world objects to create a hybrid physicaland virtual world. Mixed reality has been an on-going research field that has progressed throughout the past 20 years. The field of research can be considered in terms of a continuum that spans from full simulation (virtual reality) to the simple reproduction of reality through video recording; with Augmented Reality (AR) and Augmented Virtuality (AV/VR) being hybrids of the two.

Augmented reality is the process of augmenting the user's view of the real world with computer-generated sensory information in the form of graphics (although sound and animation can be used).  It is different from virtual reality, whichcompletely replaces the user's view of the real world with a simulated one.  In AR, the user still sees the real world but the world is enhanced (or augmented) by virtual objects.

Also we can define the augmented reality as superimposes virtual information onto the physical world, typically using real time video capture. Either through the use of 2D image markers or through GPS tracking, 3D models can be aligned with the perspective of the real time video. This can be displayed on a video screen or projection, or through a head mounted display (HMD). Much recent activity has focused on the use of 2D markers and mobile screens such as tablets and smart phone.


There are distinct development platforms that are available for creating and authoring AR simulations, these platforms include the AR toolkit, AR-Media , Studierstube and (3Ds max -Rivet) plug-in. These are particularly important authoring precedents as they are popular for their ease of use, they do not need extensive programming and emphasize AR technology for non-programming users. On the other hand there are few software platforms that are more advanced in creating and authoring augmented reality simulations such as Unity 3D , which considered as gaming engines also .

However the focus here is to analyze platforms that have construction/architectural based examples. Two established platforms are available in this post– AR Toolkit and Unity 3D.

3.1.1. AR TOOLKIT :

The AR Toolkit developed by Dr Hirokazu Kato is a popular authoring platform for augmented reality today, it uses computer vision algorithms to track 2D target markers and uses C or C++ programming languages to create interfaces and add functionality. It also supports both video and optical see through augmented reality. AR is supported through direct video feed of the real world with a 3D object overlain or alternatively can support designing environments for AR on Head Mounted Displays. The toolkit has a few limitations that are common for most AR authoring tools, such as the influence of 2D marker size and pattern. The more distinct the pattern is with colour/shape the easier the camera will register it from a distance. If parts of the 2D marker are covered the 3D model will not superimpose . As shown in the attached figure the AR Toolkit camera technology tracks a 2D target and how a 3D object is superimposed over video stream of the real world ( AR workflow).

3.1.2. Unity 3D: 

Unlike AR Toolkit, Unity 3D is not an authoring platform that is solely focused on creating augmented reality applications. It is a development engine for the production of primarily video games and to some extents entertainment simulations . Unity 3D also has well-documented dictionaries of scripting commands that are available online on the main Unity 3D website and also on a variety of independent developer websites. In addition all scripting commands can be written in either C# or JavaScript .

A separate extension package called Vuforia enables augmented reality to be integrated with Unity 3D. The extension is easy to install and has a simplified set of tools. Porting an application for a mobile smart device is relatively straightforward and there are not many programmatic complexities to deal with .The complexity of AR controls within Unity 3D are limited compared with AR specific platforms such as the AR toolkit. Developing an AR application with Unity 3D also requires added software development kits (SDKs) and mobile platform licenses which are not free. Despite this added complexity, Unity 3D provides a sophisticated platform, is well supported in terms of documentation and examples. 

4.The integration between 4D simulation and  Augmented Reality :

4.1.Smart Reality mobile App:

The software developers JBKnowledge have also released an application for smart devices which is simulated using augmented reality. This precedent is the most important of all examples that have been discussed in this post as it is one of the few precedents that display construction management information using augmented reality. Smart Reality is a 4D AR (augmented reality) BIM application which simulates a Revit based 3D model in AR using the 2D building plan as a target marker and construction sequence from Synchro pro.

The application of  smart reality is by far the closest  and first example of mobile4D AR BIM that has been found at this stage in time. Smart reality is a particularly important precedent since it is one of the few applications that is operating on an android device and has a video demonstration of functions. Although developers have released a Beta version for testing they also stress that it is still a work in progress among many other research projects that are carrying out 4D AR BIM. The application has features that allow the user to simulate an augmented reality 4D model of a Revit model onto a 2D plan acting as the target marker). Shown in figure  below are a number of features after activating the application that gives users added perspective on a 3D model.If you want to try the app , you can download the demo projects from :

The 4D AR demo project called : Synchro  2015 Demo

5.The Value of Creating the 4D Augmented reality model: 

Early detection of actual or potential schedule delay or cost overrun in field construction activities is vital to project management . It provides the opportunity to initiate remedial actions and increases the chance of controlling such overruns or minimizing their impacts. Since schedule delays and cost overruns diminish profits of a project, it is easy to see why both project managers and project executives are perceptive to any deviation. This entails project managers to design, implement, and maintain a systematic and comprehensive approach for progress monitoring to promptly identify, process and communicate discrepancies between actual (as-built) and as-planned performances as early as possible.Despite the importance of progress monitoring, systematic implementation of such framework can be challenging because:

(1) Current progress monitoring is time-consuming as it needs extensive as-planned and as built data extraction .Every day, superintendents and field engineers study 2D as planned drawings, construction details as well as project specifications, review progress perceived by that date and study schedule and work breakdown structure to detect the work to be performed. Subsequently, they perform, monitor and supervise site activities and for the work performed, they collect site photographs and document daily construction reports.

(2) The excessive amount of work required to be performed may cause human-errors and reduce the quality of manually collected data and since only an approximate visual inspection is usually performed, makes the collected datasubjective.

(3) Existing methods for monitoring such as weighted milestones and budget-based monitoring are also non-systematic and create a tendency to let project as-planned inputs serve as proxy measures for performance outputs which affects the quality of the results,

(4) In addition, progress reports are visually complex, and they do not effectively represent multivariable progress information (i.e., schedule, cost, and performance) nor do they intuitively reflect information pertaining spatial aspects of the construction progress and their associated complexities .

 (5) Current reporting methods increase the time required to describe andexplain the progress situation in coordination meetings and in turn could delay the decision making process .

Augmented reality for visualization of progress  started early in  (2006) suggested to overlaying as-planned models on photographs and conceptually formed a method for visualization of construction progress where deviations between planned and as-built performance models were conceptually represented in an AR (Augmented Reality) environment, that's proposed framework for interactive visualization of construction progress monitoring with the 4DAR model.

The availability of such rich imagery of large parts seen under different viewing conditions presents enormous opportunities for progress monitoring, study of work-space logistics, quality assurance/ control, safety, as well as construction productivity. Also increase the communication over the project stockholders, the understanding of the construction methodology. In addition to that simply you can share the full project data in just 1 simple marker (picture) including the timeline with everyone in the project , also you can plan your work in real life based on site condition.

At the end, from the stand point of progress monitoring, these site 4D AR model present the ultimate data set, which should give the ability to model a significant portion of as-built geometry at high resolution respective to conditions where enough as built (photographs/Videos) are being taken. Then everyone can utilize the power of 4D AR model based on his needs, there is no limited benefits or standards, just think and free your imagination.

Once again , I consider the 4D AR as the future of 4D simulation and the 4D itself as the current standard of project control, so ask your self how far you are from the standard and the future.

Good luck,

Tamer Elgohari

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