Pros and Cons of 3D Scanning in Architecture and Construction

How Can 3D Laser Scanning Help?

3D laser scanning is quickly becoming an industry-standard tool in architecture and construction. But, unfortunately, not all AEC professionals are ready to embrace it. While it is the most accurate way to get as-built building conditions, there are still some holdovers in the industry that are reluctant to use the technology. So what are the pros and cons of 3D scanning?

Change Is Hard. New Technology Is Not Always Embraced.

Imagine an architect in a drafting room in 1983. He is likely surrounded by dozens of drafting tables carefully lined across wide-open floors. Architects meticulously took pencil to paper, cigarettes dangling out of clenched lips, creating drawings with skills developed and perfected over their careers. Into this scene, an AutoCAD salesperson walks in. The salesman wants to talk about new software that will completely upend and change fundamental aspects of an architect’s life’s work. There probably wouldn’t have been much of a conversation before that salesperson was shown the door. Fast forward a few years later and drafting rooms were replaced by printing rooms. Drafting tables were replaced by computers running AutoCAD, and those that didn’t embrace the change were left behind.

Now, in 2021, AutoCAD is on its way out the door after an almost 40 year run as the revolutionary standard. Many firms are now scrambling to find BIM and Revit specialists because it is now becoming the industry standard. Industries are constantly evolving, and we have to understand and embrace these changes in order to remain competitive. This is how we often explain the emergence of laser scanning when asked, “Why should I use laser scanning?” Nobody likes change, especially in the workplace. After years of honing a particular set of skills, it can be daunting to learn new skills. But sometimes we have to look up from our drafting tables and see where the industry around us is headed. 3D scanning is undeniably where the future is headed.


The Pros of 3D Scanning

In the past, architects and engineers wanting to create a model would likely send staff or interns to a project with hand-held laser measurers, still cameras, and a set of blueprints. Staff or interns would likely take several days to measure all the dimensions the architects or engineers knew they needed.

By contrast, most laser scanners collect between 1 million and 2 million points of measurable data per second. That means that 3D models based on a point cloud are extremely accurate. Moreover, architects can skip the pain and cost of sending someone back to the site to collect measurements or take inventory of an item that someone forgot to document or that they didn’t know they needed. A laser scanner doesn’t miss any measurements. 3D scanning brings your site to you in its entirety.

And not only does laser scanning make much more data available, but it also takes a fraction of the time. With millions of points of data produced each second – sites that would have taken a week to measure by hand (with missed data!) take just a day with laser scanning. With advanced 3D laser scanning, design teams easily save precious time and money.

The Cons of 3D Scanning

Traditionally, the cost of laser scanning was the biggest hurdle. When it made its debut in the early 2000s, it was quite expensive.

However, even within the past couple of years, the cost of laser scanning has fallen significantly. In many cases, the cost of scanning is now comparable to the cost of sending staff into the field. While it may take a week for staff to take measurements and make corrections; laser scanning can be conducted much more quickly. Particularly when a point cloud is sufficient and a firm doesn’t need to contract out services to create a 3D model, the cost may not be the barrier it once was. Scanning also significantly reduces change orders caused by errors. By spending on laser scanning at the beginning of the project, costs are often recouped by avoiding change orders – which are both expensive and embarrassing.

But while the cost is similar, what you get in return for the price is incomparable. 3D scanning is safer, more accurate, faster, and will accurately deliver your site to you. A complete point cloud can be used by the entire project team, from engineers to architects, to other design professionals. It gives design professionals confidence in their designs and increases the professionalism of your project.

Color Laser Scan

Embracing Change: How To Determine if Laser Scanning Is Right for You

Think of 3D scanning like reverse engineering. A 3D point cloud of your building will help you understand the building as it was in reality (not how architects wished it was built) the day it was scanned. Starting with a 3D point cloud, an extremely accurate model can be created in Revit.

The first step in determining if 3D scanning is right for you is to have a conversation with an experienced member of the TrueScan team. The cost of 3D scanning varies – depending on the level of accuracy, the complexity of the space, and the documentation needs. For example, a 100,000 square foot warehouse, that is not currently in operation, and only have a few offices and a restroom will be on the lower end of the spectrum around $0.02-$0.05/sf. Meanwhile, an office building of the same size that has multiple levels, 50 offices currently in use, and needs documentation above the ACT grid will cost much more per square foot.

By having a conversation with our team about your specific needs, you can compare the cost and benefits of scanning to your current procedures. TrueScan is always happy to conduct education about laser scanning, the pros, and cons of 3D scanning, the capabilities of laser scanning, 3D building scanning, 3D scanning on construction sites, the cost of laser scanning, or any other questions.

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