Scan-to-BIM – What’s it all About?

Scan-to-BIM – What’s it all About?

24th January 2019

Last week in one of our articles we took a look at the future of project management and the exciting developments we’ve seen over the past few years as the construction industry has made a concerted effort to adopt digital technology.  One of the issues we touched on was the rapid improvements in both drone technology and 3D laser scanning, which, when combined, enable us to “scan-to-BIM”, one of our sector’s latest buzz words.  Today we’re going to go into more detail on scan-to-BIM so that all of our readers are fully up to date with all the latest happenings and technology.

To begin with, scan-to-BIM doesn’t just rely on drone footage, surveyors also try to scan in every way possible, on the ground and in the sky, in order to obtain all the terrestrial and aerial data necessary to produce a complete point cloud dataset for a project and a foundation for an extremely detailed BIM model.  Mobile scanners can be used, either moved around on a trolley or even worn as a backpack device, makes the whole exercise quicker and easier.  

Taking advantage of the technology now available via terrestrial tripod-based laser scanners, surveyors are able to accurately record both interior spaces and exterior facades, including plumbing, mechanical and electrical installations that are difficult to access as they are concealed behind ceilings and walls.

Moreover, software can be used to stitch together high-resolution images captured using drones, a process known as photogrammetry.  This can then be used to generate a second point cloud which covers the external parts of the building that are challenging to access. 

A point cloud is a collection of dimensional points and a point cloud file must be transformed into the smart geometric components in BIM tools.  This is a lengthy task made much quicker by using algorithm-based tools which automatically recognise and extract items from the point cloud (such as structural steel, cabling or pipework) and transforms them into 3D components.

Once the modelling process has been finished, it’s a simple matter of adding non-graphic data which can be easily accessed by clicking.  For example, clicking on a ceiling can result in information on the presence of asbestos (data courtesy of the asbestos report).

Scan-to-BIM is especially useful for refurbishment and renovation projects.  This was clearly demonstrated in the case of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).  In 2014 a fire severely damaged this iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, including its famed library and archive.  A full scan of the building was carried out and the data from this will be used to ensure an accurate reconstruction of the building following the second fire which took place in 2018.

Next week, we’ll be exploring the advantages that scan-to-BIM offers to both designers and clients, so be sure to come back for more information on this cool new technology.  If you don’t want to miss out on the next article on this subject, you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter so that you get a notification as soon as it’s available online.