Five-dimensional building information modeling is the culmination of three-dimensional computer-aided design, time schedules and projected costs. Robotic manufacturers utilize 5D software platforms to reduce lead times and increase cost estimate accuracy. These platforms have great potential in the field of offsite construction.

Welding in 5D

Advances in robotic welding include offline programming and desktop simulation. Designers have been able to program robotic welders to complete several tasks without use of a teach pendant. They have also been able to simulate these operations in virtual space identifying possible collision points, undesirable weld positions and calculating weld times. Operators can adjust welding procedures in this virtual space to achieve desired results. Collectively these advanced features act to maximize uptime, increase productivity, improve operational flexibility and increase cost estimate accuracy, but this alone does not address the needs of the offsite construction industry.

Welding in 5D is not about a specific welding technique nor any advanced robotic welding features, but is about accurate projections of lead times with an emphasis on logistical efficiencies. In order to prevail in a highly competitive market, offsite construction companies have utilized five-dimensional building information models to improve assembly operation efficiencies. Operators track inventories of both modular fabricated components and raw materials to accurately map out assembly operations and project timelines.

This systematic approach utilizes the productivity enhancement of a robotic welding cell to address inventory requirements and skilled-labor shortages. Operators can reduce lead times and improve cost accuracy by maintaining required inventory. Robotic welding cells are then the worker bees of the system as they replenish modular component inventories by switching between job tasks and operating under the principles of lean manufacturing.

5D BIM a fit for offsite construction

In a 2016 article from research and analyst firm McKinsey & Company, it was stated that large EPC projects exceeded allotted time schedules by as much as 20% while running up to 80% over budget. Numerous reasons account for why these large construction projects failed to meet deadlines and ran over budget, but offsite construction and 5D BIM have a proven track record of addressing these shortcomings.

A June 2019 article from the same publisher, “Modular construction: From projects to products,” stated that a modular approach accelerates project timelines by 20 to 50%, but in order to gain market and deliver cost savings of up to 20%, productivity gains need to outweigh logistics and material costs, which is where new digital technologies, like 5D BIM and robotic welding technologies, come into play.

Offsite construction alleviates time constraints imposed by environmental influences to improve construction efficiency. Adaptation of 5D BIM improves this value-added proposition of offsite construction by increasing lead time reliability and cost projection accuracy.


5D BIM leverages productivity enhancements of a robotic welding cell to produce modular components that are often bolted together on-site. On the premise that on-site welding operations are eliminated, the risk of missing deadlines and running over budget is mitigated. Collectively these technologies also offset concerns of labor shortages to meet large-scale unmet demands. Off-site construction and 5D BIM are described as ideal technologies for addressing housing shortages. They facilitate rapid development of apartment buildings and student housing, a market where current demand aids in improving scalability and repeatability, which ultimately helps project m