How are you enjoying working at home? COVID-19 has caused many companies to embrace remote working, and the AEC industry is no exception. While working from a home office has brought challenges as well as advantages, we see an additional opportunity for construction professionals: using the time they have saved by eliminating the daily commute to think about the technology they use, and to explore new options that might help their company save time, save money, or to produce even better results. Given that construction already has an established reputation as a laggard when it comes to digitisation, this extra time to catch up could be especially useful.
An ideal place to start might be looking at your workflows for collecting as-built information and disseminating that to various project teams. It’s an essential piece of any construction project, but often a time-consuming one. You might still be doing it by hand, measuring spaces and marking things down on graph paper. You might be using scanning technology to generate point clouds – but finding that those files are so large and full of information that it’s hard to get value out of them.
With the above in mind, AEC professionals like you could benefit greatly from experimenting with software that can interpret point cloud data and turn it into easy-to-use, intelligent models that can be used by everyone in your project team – especially if that software is available with a free trial.
Linking Reality Capture with Digital Design
If you look around, you’ll see a variety of software packages designed to convert point cloud data to mesh models, thus making the data much more manageable as mesh models are generally far smaller than point clouds. However, the best software can turn point clouds into intelligent mesh models. While most mesh models are ‘flat’ – meaning they can’t be separated into their constituent parts – intelligent mesh models contain data that’s been automatically segmented into different classes, from structural members to M&E. This means that intelligent mesh models can be used simultaneously by a variety of different teams, as a single point of truth, for a variety of different purposes such as clash detection.
With this latest building and industrial plant design software at your fingertips, traditional barriers to productivity disappear. Instead of having to store and interpret enormous point cloud files (or having to measure a site by hand), the implementation of reality capture into your workflows is streamlined. You can save time, and costs, while also increasing the accuracy and richness of the data your project teams are working with.
Powerful, Intuitive and Compatible
Your trial software should provide a smooth process for importing point cloud data, whether the data originates from handheld devices, wearable SLAM scanners, or terrestrial scanners.
Next, it’s crucial that the software can automatically segment the data for you, filtering out the irrelevant data such as people or background noise and leaving only the data you need for your project. This removes the painstaking and often confusing task of interpreting point cloud to bim manually. Finally, the software should be able to make data exports available in an IFC file format, an ISO-certified open standard that is compliant with buildingSMART* and employed throughout the sector for object-oriented data exchange.
Although you won’t be able to remove the challenge of dealing with large point clouds completely – you’ll still need to register your point cloud to convert it into an intelligent mesh – the right software will mean you don’t have to keep sharing massive point cloud files around your office.
Alongside the features we’ve discussed, other useful features in your trial software should include:
An intuitive user interface that lets you make the most out of a free trial period.
Customisable searches and preset features.
Adaptable, rotatable plan and elevation views.
Digital construction and space management tools.
Data export with Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) parametrized objects, including floor plans and space management reports for users interested in space management.
Compatibility with major CAD programs – ideally without the need for plugins.
Digitisation has the potential to solve a lot of the challenges facing the construction world right now. The right tools can help you bring together teams of individuals working in remote locations, and help you manage footfall through busy construction sites to comply with social distancing. They can even help you provide new client experiences – all while increasing efficiency and reducing cost.
That’s why it’s so exciting to finally have a bit of time to properly evaluate your digital construction workflows and assess new solutions. It’s also absolutely the right time – as lockdown eases, the construction industry is going to return to work with a much tighter focus on cost.
A point-cloud to BIM package such as PointFuse helps you keep costs under control in numerous ways. It reduces the need for specialist computers to handle massive point clouds, reducing IT spend; it reduces the delays that can come when sharing manually captured data or transferring large files, making the team more efficient; it also helps you build a digital construction workflow that delivers a much more accurate picture of as-built conditions on-site, which can drastically reduce the costs of change orders. In short, intelligent mesh models – delivered by the right software – have the potential to save time, keep clients happy, and to dramatically improve the way you work.
Mark Senior is a managing director of PointFuse specializes in the point cloud software offering AEC software, as build bim and virtual design software. He has been involved with PointFuse since its conception, shaping its development from bleeding-edge technology to the successful commercial solution it is today.