A Look into 3D Scanning in Construction

November 18, 2015


3D scanning is quickly becoming more common in our industry. We are seeing 3D scanners and point clouds implemented in many different field, by many different parties. But what is industry really doing with 3D scanning, and why? This month, CanBIM sat down with EllisDon’s 3D Scanning Specialist, Stephen Vickers to find out more.



Stephen Vickers (P.Eng) is a 3D surveying specialist who is currently working within EllisDon’s Virtual Construction Department. Stephen began pursuing laser scanning while auditing the design and regulatory compliance of petroleum storage systems; he recognized the significance and pragmatism of leveraging high fidelity three-dimensional sensors and modern computing for documenting, analyzing, and presenting situations. Stephen is currently studying the application of drones and aerial photogrammetry in construction.



CanBIM: What is the focus of 3D scanning in construction?


Stephen: I think the focus of 3D scanning in construction is risk. Project timelines seem to be getting tighter, while complexity is increased. We are always discussing how much risk is acceptable. I think industry sees laser scanning as a tool to mitigate risk. If you’re able to eliminate any sort of risk, or any number of RFI’s, it can be very much worth it. I think the main focus right now in construction is eliminating risk, and eliminating inefficiencies.


CanBIM: What does 3D scanning offer the construction industry? Who benefits?


Stephen: So much of our communication during construction projects is based around 2D drawings, and BIM is a big step forward in using spatial coordination and communication to make these projects come together. We benefit from laser scanning in the way that it accurately communicates spatial information. Instead of running around with 2D plans, we are capturing data and conducting field verification to create big data. This data tells the truth, and represents the exact spatial conditions of the area that has been scanned. So we all benefit. General contractors, consultants, and owners benefit from the accuracy, fidelity, and longevity of the data.


CanBIM: What difficulties is 3D scanning facing in construction applications?


Stephen: The greatest difficulty is dealing with files and data in quantities that are usually reserved for research development or movie and film production. The construction industry isn’t really used to that, we don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to handle that type of data. The hardware to handle not only the file sizes, but also having access to the software to manipulate the data is extremely important. With the progression of the technology, your average CAD programs are not going to cut it. Another challenge with this technology is making sure that it’s in the hands of the right people. Maybe one firm is right for one job; however, another specialty firm is right for another, and they might not have any idea of what each other’s processes are. The challenge is finding the right people to extract the data that you desire. With any emerging technology there is always going to be growing pains.




CanBIM: What is the future of incorporating 3D scanning in construction?


Stephen: I think the future of 3D scanning will be a collaborative environment, where we are utilizing many different tools and technologies. We are going to start seeing things like hand-held scanners that are directly connected to standard scanners or instruments that combine 3D scanning with traditional total stations. There will be emerging technologies like UAV, and drones that are utilizing photogrammetry and 3D scanners. I predict GIS and asset management information being tied to these spatial representations. We may see less modeling, and more using the point cloud data itself in the future. Eventually the 3D model will be only one piece of the puzzle, and the measurements and information within the point cloud itself will be the desired deliverable.


CanBIM: Thank you to Stephen for sitting down and sharing his perspective on the current and future roles of 3D scanning in construction with the CanBIM community. If you or your firms have any stories regarding innovation and technology in constriction, please share them with us!

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