A few years ago, 3G mobile broadband services were top of the line. It wasn’t long, though, before service providers began touting 4G. I couldn’t help thinking about what comes next. Will we be bombarded with advertisements for 10G service somewhere down the line?

The reality, of course, is that most networks face a number of constraints even to reach true 4G speeds, but the rapid progression of technology in every industry sector—and, more importantly, the application of technology—is impossible to ignore.

I was reminded of this during the Autodesk Media Summit last week as I listened to a presentation by Dace Campbell, AIA, LEED AP, director of innovation for BNBuilders. Campbell, who specializes in integrated project delivery and building information modeling (BIM), described how BNBuilders uses Revit and Navisworks in the Autodesk Building Design Suite to apply BIM on almost every project. He said that BIM takes place on the project site and that everyone at BNBuilders has to be able to operate the model. He believes it’s only a matter of time before all building construction projects fully adopt BIM as part of the standard workflow. He noted impressive benefits such as enhanced constructability review, reliable clash detection, a 75 percent reduction in layout time, and the ability to filter data and color code it in a way that makes sense to field crews.

The presentation was interesting, but what really caught my attention was when Campbell started talking about a 6th dimension of design. Of course, everyone is familiar with 3D by now. The 4th dimension of time has also become a crucial part of any model, and the 5th dimension of cost can also now be integrated with some of the latest software packages. But what is the 6th dimension?

In the context of Campbell’s discussion, 6D was the use of BIM to support facility operations and maintenance. I can envision similar applications in infrastructure to support lifecycle management and planning. This begs the question: How many other dimensions of design have yet to be discovered? Where will technology take us?

For many professionals in surveying, mapping, architecture and engineering, 3D is still a stretch. Indeed, some applications might never require more than a simple 2D deliverable. But once you cross into the third dimension, it’s clear that 3D is just the beginning. As you delve into new ways to integrate and apply project data, a multifaceted world of capabilities begins to emerge.

How many dimensions can you envision? Please share your comments below.

Image: A building information model from Campbell's presentation during the Autodesk Media Summit.