When we think about technology, it is common to imagine AI, apps and the gadgets that most of us have in our homes or in our pockets. While they’re all futuristic in their own ways, at their core is the ability to help make us more efficient and give access to information instantly.
Technology within the construction industry has been evolving over the last 5-10 years but while the technology has advanced, one of the biggest barriers to its utilisation is cost, making it an unfeasible solution for SME’s and independent organisations. However, as technology has become faster and more accessible, new developments are helping to revolutionise the construction and design of buildings and commercial interiors.
One of the standout advancements in the design and construction of commercial space is the use of reality capture technology. Implemented during the pre-construction process, reality capture technology is being used to generate data-rich digital models and images of real estate and drastically improve accuracy of information as reduce waste and increase efficiency on site.
Reality capture is the process of capturing a digital representation of a physical space. A laser scanner is used to capture a 3D point cloud image and provides an accurate digital representation of a space. It acts as the one source of truth of a space or building as captured in that point in time.
A point cloud is the end product of laser scanning a space and is a data-rich 3D image composed as a cloud of points. A point cloud image can’t be wrong; it is a digital representation of a certain space at that point in time. The highly detailed images give accurate measurements to 6mm-10mm. This is an example of a point cloud image:
The single most important use of reality capture technology is that a construction team can go to site knowing exactly what is there and solve any problems before they start their works.
Having the ability to capture a true representation of the space you’re working in, or even being able to provide this to the tenant or landlord of the building, gives you a huge advantage. This can reduce the risk of hidden and surprise costs after starting on site with out of date or inaccurate drawings and ultimately removes the potential variables that can causes delays or budget increases that can catch you out further down the line.
The other important aspect of reality capture is that the use of technology eliminates the manual process of measuring a site with a laser measurer. This allows for errors or inaccuracies and potentially means you have to return to site to remeasure the space. This can be a time consuming and labour heavy task which takes resource away from other tasks. With reality capture, it’s possible to scan a 10,000 sq ft project in 2-3 hours with full accuracy and process the point cloud of that site in the same day.
The big advancements come from the speed and efficiency of the process as well as the accuracy of information that the scans provide. These are the most important aspects of any construction project but particularly for design and build projects that are typically working on short programmes that can’t afford overruns.
In the past, reality capture technology has been reserved for the larger construction companies and traditional architects. This in part is due to the access to internal resource and larger budgets to facilitate external consultants that scan the buildings. As reality capture technology has become more advanced and more accessible, smaller businesses have started to reap the benefits of using laser scanners.
At Oktra we have brought this process in house which it allows us to validate every job that we do before we get to site. Having the capability to deliver construction projects more efficiently, and to the exact specification we’ve promised to clients, is game changing. We are one of the leading design and build companies deploying this technology and an increasing number of our projects are scanned as part of our standard approach.
There are a variety of benefits of using reality capture technology which include accuracy of information and improved time efficiencies.
The technology has been available for several years but there were barriers around cost and feasibility which made it impractical to use on a large scale. Now the technology has evolved to a point where it is a cost-effective solution contractors to begin exploring this new process.
The main benefit to a fit out contractor is to have accurate information of the space/building they are working in. Challenges arise from incorrect information which can only be verified you get to site. If there are walls and columns in the space that aren’t included on the plan, it immediately affects the timeline and budget for the project.
Access to accurate data is one of the most reassuring elements you can present to a client on any design and construction project. Being able to confirm your programme and processes with the building information gives them the surety that they are getting what they’ve been promised. This prevents expensive redesign processes and less reworking on site.
The 360-degree camera also allows you to capture walkthroughs of a space which can then be shown to clients. This is another big benefit of using Reality Capture technology and having these models to pass on to a client once they move in, which gives them accurate data of their own space.
Another important benefit of building scans is that it reduces unnecessary travel to site and subsequently reduces the embodied carbon of a project. Once the scan is done, everyone involved in that project can ‘walk’ that site virtually. This removes the back and forth from site and improves efficiency on the project and makes it inherently more environmentally friendly by removing unnecessary travel to site.
Technology is not only helping with the digital transformation of the construction industry, it is also closely linked to improving sustainability and moving towards digital-first processes. This shift is bringing innovative solutions to an industry that is renowned as being a sector that is slow to adapt to change.
Other significant changes towards cloud-based storage are also improving flexibility and accessibility to information on projects and reducing the requirement for mass printing documents. Reality capture technology can lead to better communication and stakeholder engagement with VR walkthroughs and access to real-time updates.
With access to new technology becoming more straightforward, it is enabling construction companies to adopt digital-first strategies to revolutionise their robust processes and methods. From stakeholder engagement to ensuring plans are accurate, there are huge opportunities for reality capture technology to shape a more advanced future for construction.
As the digital transformation of the construction industry continues, these technologies will help to improve processes and change the way we design commercial space. These are the types of solutions that will help drive design and build and construction forward.