Building the Future: 3D Data Use in Construction

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Clark Yuan
Clark Yuan
August 22, 2023
5 min

In the ever-changing Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, it is essential that construction companies are able to operate with reliability, efficiency, and safety in mind. One such innovation that is gaining increasing adoption across the industry is 3D data.

LIDAR scan of construction site

For decades, construction companies have relied heavily on a design process known as building information modeling (BIM) whereby engineers create digital models of a physical space for use throughout a building’s lifecycle. A more advanced variation of this process is known as Scan-to-BIM where engineers leverage laser scanning instead of computer software to generate the “as-is” digital building model. Scan-to-BIM is a 3D technique that significantly improves overall accuracy, efficiency, and usability throughout a project’s lifecycle, especially when compared to 2D workflows. For example, a scan of an existing building can highlight areas where insulation is lacking, allowing building managers to rapidly address the building’s carbon footprint. 3D data is already driving next-generation building techniques, allowing the industry to not only operate and build more efficiently but also design in ways that promote sustainability and safety.

3D Data Delivers Efficiency and Precision

Windover Construction, a Massachusetts-based construction company, recently leveraged 3D scanning to completely renovate a YMCA with shocking results. Because Windover was not involved with the original construction of the YMCA, the company needed to gather data on the current state of the building as quickly and accurately as possible. Enter LIDAR and 3D data. The firm opted to use drones to LIDAR scan the existing structure, creating a detailed 3D model that was paired with quality assurance overlays to identify any issues with the planned renovations. And because the current structure was closely packed between neighboring buildings, the margin for error was small. Not only was the 3D model essential for the safe demolition of the building, 3D models also improved quality control during the construction process.

Additional use cases in the AEC industry include:

  1. Pre-Construction Site Selection

One of the most critical industry decisions is picking a suitable construction site for a project. Imagine having to inspect a site in person and relying on time-consuming techniques, such as triangulation and leveling, to gather data throughout the planning process. Even after a site has been chosen, construction firms often rely on 2D mock-ups and drawings to analyze the building’s impact on the surrounding areas. By leveraging 3D scanners, engineers and project managers can quickly capture an environment in full 3D to obtain precise measurements prior to breaking ground. This allows construction companies to fully understand and document site specifics, visualize the project with building owners and subcontractors, estimate costs, and identify any potential flaws.

  1. As-Planned vs As-Built Analysis

Timeliness and safety are key for any construction project. As a project progresses, construction companies can utilize 3D scans to compare the current state of the project to pre-work models - a process known as “as-planned vs as-built analysis.” In February 2023, Boston-based Existing Conditions was called upon to provide construction-grade 3D laser scans of Alewife Station after a car crashed through concrete barriers in the station’s parking garage. Existing Conditions provided the City of Cambridge as well as the prime contractor, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, the “existing condition” 3D scan of the station post-accident, which engineers compared with pre-accident building schematics. The ability to quickly compare pre- and post-damages in 3D is facilitating rapid damage assessments and repairs across the entire industry.

  1. Documentation and Collaboration

Construction documentation can be extremely cumbersome. Ruffling through file cabinets or repositories of countless documents is a real pain that construction crews face every day. 3D models can consolidate many of these documents into a single highly accurate digital twin, centralizing information in one digital file. By eliminating the need to work across multiple files, 3D documentation makes it possible to collaborate in a 3D digital environment.

Stitch3D Enables 3D Collaboration

The AEC industry is a vanguard of 3D technology. However, 3D data is not yet ubiquitous and still has much room for improvement. Interoperability remains an issue, with multiple file formats and sporadic adoption resulting in significant financial costs and time. To address this, the industry requires the right software and tools to easily collaborate and share 3D data. Stitch3D is building the solution to make it easier than ever to share, collaborate, and analyze 3D data, which will help enable the AEC industry to operate more efficiently and effectively.

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