The honest answer is… it depends. While 3D laser scanning offers some incredible benefits for the right project, there is a cost attached to it, and not every project is a perfect fit.
For instance, if you have a small, easy to measure space, the cost of 3D laser scanning will likely exceed the cost of taking hand measurements. In those cases, we might not recommend laser scanning; hand measurements may be a better option.
But if you have a large or complex site, 3D laser scanning can actually be a cost savings.
Here’s where we think 3D laser scanning is most beneficial:
If you need measurements for a large space — let’s be honest, taking measurements by hand is time consuming and tedious. Hand measurements are also subject to error, either from the sag in the tape measure or human error. Even if you pay someone to spend the time to take all the measurements you anticipate needing, you may get into the middle of the project and realize you need additional measurements. By using 3D laser scanning, you can gather all of that information in just a couple hours and have a digital record to return to for additional information. In our experience, in large spaces the cost of 3D laser scanning is less than the cost of paying someone to take measurements by hand over the life of the project.
- If you have a space that is difficult to access — Although it is a myth that 3D laser scanning can see through walls, it is great for accessing spaces that are typically difficult to reach. Taking measurements above the ceiling, for instance, is much easier with a 3D laser scanner, which can scan everything it sees. Because our scanner can scan up to 180 meters, the scanner can also detect data points that human hands cannot reach without significant assistance.
- If you have a space that is complex, perhaps because there were several additions — each time an addition is added, the building becomes more complicated. Although you may have plans for the building, there are likely differences in what was planned and what was actually built. 3D laser scanning captures the “as-built environment” meaning that it measures what is actually there.
- If you expect to order custom pre–fabricated materials — 3D laser scanning can significantly reduce change orders by reducing errors. 3D laser scanning is not subject to human error, and is accurate within a ¼ of an inch.
- If you have a historical building — 3D laser scanning creates a digital record of the building as it is at any given moment in time. It can be like hitting the “save as” button to save a copy. That digital copy can be referenced later to: replicate historical elements, monitor change, or save a digital model in case of unexpected disasters. Additionally, because laser scanning is “hands-off” it can be beneficial for examining fragile elements without the need to touch them.
- If you have a remote site — 3D laser scanning can not only provide 3D models and a point cloud that can be referenced repeatedly, it can also be used to create a flythrough of the site—allowing individuals who have never visited the building to get a sense of the space—or can be used with Truview to allow you to look around a space, allowing you to count light fixtures or get a sense of the natural light for example. By having so much data and images at your fingertips, the cost of travel to the site is dramatically reduced.