The construction industry has been experiencing a digital transformation for a while now. Over the past year or so, this transformation has been greatly accelerated by contractors’ need to adopt high-tech tools — especially those with remote capabilities — to keep projects moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the most electrifying technologies currently on the rise is three-dimensional (3D) laser scanning.
Laser scanners measure without touching, quickly and accurately capturing details of every nook and cranny of a building or job site. By using laser light and advanced photogrammetry, 3D laser scanners provide data sets known as “point clouds,” which are used to create ultra-realistic 3D images of scanned locations or objects.
Scan data can be imported to building information modeling software, enabling clash detection during design and planning as well as virtual walkthroughs with teams and stakeholders. The scans also serve as records or timestamps to document project milestones. Here’s a look at a few specific areas of the industry that 3D laser scanning may impact:
Renovation, adaptive reuse projects. Architects must base designs on building owners’ as-built drawings, yet documentation for older buildings is typically out of date or hard to find. Using a scanner to create up-to-date documentation simplifies the design process and prevents errors that can lead to job delays and cost overruns.
Estimating. Accurate estimates are the foundation of successful projects. Particularly for renovation and repair jobs, scanning helps increase the precision of estimates, providing valuable details as estimators evaluate the project costs and timelines associated with a given site. Sharing a real-world model of the project also helps estimators communicate their assessments.
Quality assurance. A quick scan of an in-progress project can create a model of existing work to compare against as-built drawings or models. The model can be color-coded and marked up to represent deviations from the design and to catch and address inaccuracies before they become bigger problems.
Safety. New products are entering the market that merge photogrammetry with artificial intelligence to monitor compliance with COVID-19 safety regulations on jobsites. Meanwhile, more mobile and autonomous scanners are emerging that enable remote data capture in challenging environments. The anticipated next step is autonomous scanners with pattern recognition (machine learning) to allow remote scanning for safety violations.
Project closeout and handover. Contractors can use 3D laser scanning to record every phase of construction from beginning to end — capturing everything within the walls, above the ceilings and below the floors. This adds more value and specificity to closeout packages. Property management can then use that record throughout the lifecycle of the building.
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