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4 Ways to Use 3D Reality Capture for Building Construction

By Charlie Cropp MRICS
June 30, 2021
Here we discuss applications of 3D reality capture in the construction industry and take a look at how they can be implemented in point-cloud processing.

When it comes to digitalisation within the construction industry, there have been few greater innovations in recent times than cloud computing. The latest technological advancements facilitate new levels of speed, collaboration, and real-time communication.

With remote access, increased flexibility, dynamic scaling of storage, and on-demand computing power access, point-cloud processing is the ideal tool to deliver end-to-end solutions in the construction sector.

Here we are going to discuss the numerous applications of 3D reality capture in the construction industry and take a look at how each of these can be implemented with the assistance of advancements in point-cloud processing. Let's get started.

Suggested reading: If you want to learn more about the latest technological advancements in cloud-point procession check out our guide — Point Cloud Processing Has Changed

1. Planning, modelling and classification

Classification is nothing new. As well as products (or objects), many classes are found in ISO 12006 — such as entity, complex, space, product and facilities. Reality capture can separate even small subset elements, allowing many items to be categorised, counted and attributed, driven by LiDAR scans automating data classification.

In construction: you can detect building components automatically from your scan and help track progress, assess material needs, and detect safety risks.

In planning: you can create detailed urban inventories to develop and maintain smart city and digital twin models.

In modelling: you can gain insight into the site or land as a whole, as surveying the ground before any construction takes place gives you a detailed analysis of the physical features.

Strategies to help

As we become more connected, you need to collect and store digital data with the aim of it becoming searchable, classified, monitored, analysed and assessed.

  • Move to Automation: Automation is the next big thing for point cloud processing. Deploying state-of-the-art software applications is improving classification with the aim of fully automating the entire process. At Vercator, we've pioneered automation within point cloud registration and are applying the same technology to improve object classification. Vector-based and multi-stage registration algorithms will deliver a more robust registration to enhance the quality of classification and analysis.
  • Adopt BIM Level 3: BIM (Building Information Modelling) creates end-to-end efficiencies through the establishment of a single source of truth, stored in the cloud and therefore easily accessible to all relevant stakeholders. 
  • Embrace Scan-to-BIM: Enable the capture of accurate, as-built information before work starts. You can produce a view of working conditions in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken.

2. Dispute resolution

Many consider disputes as part of the project lifecycle. For example, a claim invariably arises in the event of a time or cost overrun or quality issue. The disturbance caused by disputes to projects can be significant. Once disputes arise, a robust resolution approach needs to be adopted.

vercator point cloud processing

Strategies to help

Conducting an effective dispute resolution requires proper preparation and presentation of events.

  • Lean on BIM: As BIM stores all the information at every specific phase, disputes can be concluded quickly and sensibly. For this to work, multiple scans are required at different stages of the project to create a single source of truth. Claims can be prepared faster and more accurately in the data-rich environment provided by BIM. 
  • Take multiple scans: Dispute resolution needs good and accurate data. Automated vector-based processing makes it possible to process many scans more accurately and faster. In addition, it increases the number of available options for classification review and simplifies the registration process of multiple scans. 
  • Look to the cloud: Cloud-based registration and data storage means you can process multiple scans simultaneously and store them centrally to create your one source of truth — vital in successful dispute resolution.

3. Flaw detection

Since reality capture is becoming increasingly straightforward, fast, and intuitive, it can now be used to validate construction and ensure it aligns with the design. This is good news for construction companies. It reduces rework by catching problems earlier and helps ensure that the project remains aligned with expectations throughout the process.

Strategies to help

There has always been a requirement to measure and verify the construction development to avoid significant rework, additional costs and avoidable interruptions. 

  • Enhance your BIM with BIM-to-field: Done well, BIM integrates onsite scanning throughout the complete construction process. It ensures the model represents the real world and vice versa.  For example, you can deploy LiDAR to scan each stage of the process and then compare that to BIM data. Establishing a single source of truth also simplifies flaw detection. Scanning/cross-checking is known as Scan-to-BIM. BIM-to-field is the mirror image of this process, BIM data being downloaded and then validated onsite by scanning the work in progress and fed back into the model.
  • Change your processes: As in the dispute resolution case, you have the opportunity to take advantage of BIM to inform and validate the actual construction. This requires a change of process to integrate the validation stages into your workflow. It also requires a high volume of scanning, which is again enabled by advanced point cloud registration and processing in the cloud.

4. Embrace experimental design and manufacturing

Why should building construction continue to work in the way it always has, even in a dramatically changing world?

Sticking to established conventions is often the easy way to do things, backed by decades of standard practice. But, as we move to a future shaped by climate change, as well as resource and material challenges, it's time to rethink.

Reducing waste and pollution will be a significant objective of building construction from now on, which will mean moving away from current norms. Automation, prefabrication and 3D printing are all pushing us forward.

Robots are beginning to transform the construction industry, whether they're building new prefabricated modules, laying brick walls or assembling 3D-printed components. They will also be poised to help solve skills shortages and reduce the number of injuries during construction.

Suggested reading: For more on the future of automation and robotics in construction, take a look at our blog — How automation and robotics will impact construction in 2021

Strategies to help

It's not easy to challenge assumptions about what construction should be — new approaches often don't seem possible until we see them in action.

  • Combine existing technology in new ways: Creative thinking about new applications is possible when you have robust point cloud processing software as the foundation. State-of-the-art software makes it faster and cheaper to achieve quality reality capture. Look to combine multiple scans from SLAM, LiDAR and photometry to reduce time at the site while increasing the number of scans you take.
  • Experiment and pilot: Learn by doing. Create capacity for experimental design. This might be achieved by taking advantage of the reduction of onsite visits due to implementing cloud-based point cloud registration software. Create a pilot side-project for each project you are involved in – think of how Formula 1 Teams add new variations and features throughout the season, backing out if the enhancement doesn't produce the required results.

The future is software-driven

Software advances in point-cloud processing are expanding the viability of LiDAR applications throughout the construction industry. Vercator's cloud point registration software is at the heart of these new applications. 

LiDAR and point clouds make Scan-to-BIM and BIM-to-field viable. Fast and accurate cloud-based registration makes 3D reality capture simpler and less expensive. It frees up time to refine processes, improve onsite quality and enable change. The industry stands on the verge of digital

transformation. We must all look to improve productivity and deliver a more sustainable built environment.

Suggested reading: If you’re interested in learning more about the role of software in reality capture, take a look at our ebook — A Guide to 3D Laser Scanning Software