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Why Use 3D Laser Scanning in Home Building and Renovations

Oct 18, 2022

Constantly evolving 3D scanning techniques, including drones, UAVs, terrestrial scanners and digital photogrammetry, make it possible to map almost every corner of a construction site at an unprecedented level of detail.

Constantly evolving 3D scanning techniques, including drones, UAVs, terrestrial scanners and digital photogrammetry, make it possible to map almost every corner of a construction site at an unprecedented level of detail.


When it comes to the construction phase, scanning technologies can be applied to all types of project, including new builds. They provide a highly accurate and regularly updated record of progress on site, with associated benefits for cost, build quality and delivery.


How Does Laser Scanning Work?

3D scanning is an innovative technology that offers building professionals a way to replicate a building in 3D for improved accuracy and efficiency from start to finish throughout the building process. A 3D scanner is a handheld device that allows the builder to scan the entire building without physical contact. The 3D scanner emits a laser that bounces off the surface of the building, creating point clouds, which are the connected points in a 3D coordinate system. These point clouds capture the exact shape and dimension of the surface, generating an extremely accurate depiction of the building.

Backed by powerful software, the 3D scanner translates the measurements it captures into a digital three-dimensional replica of what it measures. 3D scanners don’t just capture generic surface sizes — they identify precise details about the surface, including subtle contours and complex geometric differences from point to point. This range creates enormous amounts of useful data that building professionals can utilize to design and construct precise projects, including custom retrofits, renovations and new buildings.

The scanner works by projecting structured light onto the surface of the object it’s scanning. While the object is being illuminated, the scanner’s camera sensors record the changing distance and shape of the object that the laser line is sweeping across. The cameras record the continuous change in distance and shape in three dimensions. These shapes and distances become millions of points of data. The person using the scanner needs to make sure the laser is angled correctly and pointed directly at and across every part of the object’s surface in order to fully capture it.

On the software end, these points merge into one complete data file of the object 一 a full three-dimensional representation of every scanned object. From there, the 3D image uploads into various Building Information Modeling (BIM) or drawing software. Here, the data from the 3D scan can be compared to the designer’s CAD drawings and display any discrepancies between the two models. This comparison allows designers to update their drawings according to the accuracies produced by the scanner.


Below are some of the top advantages of 3D scanning in home building and renovations:

Prevents Costly and Time-Consuming Rework

It’s no secret that rework is typical during construction projects. Having to reinstall specific components because of a mistake adds budgetary constraints due to additional labor and supply costs and prolongs the project as a whole. Ultimately, rework is one of the most significant obstacles in construction.

Both insufficient designs and a lack of communication are two reasons why mistakes occur on construction projects. Using 3D lasers in home building and renovations can help mitigate these risk factors. In renovations, 3D laser scan models accurately represent the existing building, allowing homeowners and contractors to plan the work ahead of time. 

In both renovations and custom home building, having up-to-date 3D scanned data helps builders identify discrepancies with the original plan, allowing them to intervene before they complete that part of the project. By identifying and resolving design issues before they arise, you can prevent the need for costly and time-consuming rework.


Reduces Health and Safety Risks

The traditional method of measuring homes by hand can sometimes present health and safety risks, especially on a renovation project. When a worker needs to visit a site to take measurements in confined spaces, there’s always a safety risk, whether due to injury or exposure to old building materials, like asbestos. Yet contractors must measure attics, crawlspaces and basements, despite these potential hazards.

Using 3D scanning technology can mitigate these health and safety risks. 3D laser scanners are handheld, no-contact devices that provide workers with the ability to rapidly capture building data in these confined spaces, reducing their exposure and time spent in these hazardous environments. 

Additionally, 3D scanning can accurately capture data from hard-to-reach spaces like high ceilings or overhead ductwork. This ability eliminates the need for workers to use ladders or spend a lot of time at heights.


Collects Accurate Building Documentation

3D laser scanning in home construction and renovations provides a solution to collecting the most accurate building documentation possible. Prior to 3D laser scanning, designers, contractors or engineers would visit the site with a tape measure and sketchpad, taking measurements by hand and drawing what they saw. The sketched records would then transfer to a digital record. This process is still standard in home construction, but it presents opportunities for human error.

With this hand method, builders often incorrectly record information and sometimes miss sections completely, requiring additional site visits later on to record the missing data. Transferring hand sketches to a digital version presents another layer of potential human error. Additionally, hand measurements and drawings can only provide so much detail. 3D laser scanning captures subtle details to paint a much more accurate picture of the building. Accurate 3D scan data also provides permanent records builders can access for use later, streamlining future work.


Improves Collaboration Among Building Professionals

Having an accurate 3D scanned version of the building records also improves collaboration between the various professionals working on the project. During construction, it’s common for different building systems to occur simultaneously, whereby they physically interfere with each other. Without accurate building modeling, builders can’t correctly identify these clashes on the drawings before physical installation, meaning they need to resolve them once construction takes place.

A central digital file with an accurate 3D representation of the building prevents clashing, particularly across mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Working from a single shared file gives all professionals better visibility and more accurate information so everyone can work collaboratively together. For example, 3D scanning can mitigate the risk of ductwork preventing electrical installations due to its poor positioning.

MEP trades can each fabricate and install equipment and products accurately based on the most up-to-date version of the 3D scanned model. Whether it’s HVAC equipment, electrical systems, pipes or ductwork, builders can coordinate all installations to prevent mistakes in physically positioning each system. Additionally, with accurate 3D scanned data, contractors can avoid issues that arise with scope discrepancies and subsequent contract disputes.


Ensures Better Structural Integrity

Another reason to use 3D laser scanning in home renovations and custom homes is that it ensures a higher quality final product, particularly when it comes to structural integrity. Being able to properly plan the home’s structural framework is crucial to ensuring the physical strength, stability and safety of the house. In renovations, contractors need to obtain all of the necessary existing measurements so they can preserve, update or replace structural elements.

Likewise, having structural records of the project ensures that construction progresses accurately according to the design. Overall, 3D scanning provides you with a digital record to refer to when ensuring builders correctly install all structural components and materials in their proper location. This information ensures greater quality in the final product and that the home lasts longer and requires fewer repairs or additional renovations in the future.


Streamlines Building Progress

One of the significant advantages of 3D scanning is that contractors can update the digital drawings continuously throughout the project. 3D scanning also provides access to the information you need on-demand. Having the ability to gain an accurate insight into the project’s current state can dramatically streamline the building process. This information speeds up the initial planning phase and increases productivity throughout the project.

Because each scanned version of the building remains on record, contractors can quickly compare previous versions of the building to the current one, identifying differences between one building phase to the next. As a result, contractors can tighten up their production schedule because it allows them to anticipate necessary changes ahead of time and before they actually perform the work.

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