HH Angus employee using a Matterport scanner

In the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, 3D reality capture is the process of scanning a building, portion of a building, equipment or site in the real world and converting the scanned data into a useful 3D digital model. A physical space is scanned using various technologies to collect huge amounts of spatial data to create different types of 3D visualization—from 360 degree 4K videos and photorealistic walkthroughs to 3D mesh or point clouds models. Whether using LIDAR-based technology or technology based on photogrammetry, knowing which technology to use for a given application is key to solving the challenges our clients are facing in the operation and maintenance of their facilities.  

Why use it?

While you can use traditional 2D design and as-built drawings for a project, 3D reality capture can offer many benefits over the traditional approach, including saving time, reducing costs and improving accuracy.

Barriers to adoption decreasing. The cost of 3D scanners and other reality capture hardware has become increasingly affordable, even as quality and features continue to improve. Also, the software has become very intuitive and easy-to-use.

Highly accurate and reliable information. The reliability of existing as-built 2D drawings often varies from project to project and can be a pain point in retrofits and renovations. Instead of depending on outdated drawings or time-consuming manual measurements or surveys, reality capture technology can capture existing site conditions very efficiently and accurately. The 3D scan and resultant 3D models can then be quickly actioned by importing into the BIM software of choice and utilized by the entire project team.

Create efficiencies. Due to its accuracy and speed, reality capture reduces the need for multiple site visits – many of which are typically made simply to re-measure or double check survey results. By ‘capturing once’, project teams can use 3D scans or BIM models to derive more insights and identify potential conflicts or opportunities much earlier in the design and construction process. 

Scan to BIM. By scanning the existing conditions and creating a functional BIM model, teams can begin designing immediately, allowing for greater accuracy, reduction in rework and shortening project schedules.

Improved collaboration. We typically make the resulting 3D scans and/or BIM models available in the cloud, allowing everyone involved in the design and construction process to access the one model from anywhere. Teams can be based anywhere and have the ability to view and interact with the data in real-time – making notes, providing feedback, taking measurements of existing site conditions from the 3D model, and making iterative design changes in a highly interactive and collaborative way.

Documenting progress. Reality Capture allows for fast and efficient documentation of construction progress. Regular scans of the site help ensure that construction is matching the design intent and allows the team to discover discrepancies before they become costly mistakes.  

How HH Angus is Using Reality Capture

3D reality capture is very convenient, allowing us to capture dimensionally-accurate records of systems infrastructure (usually hidden above ceilings, under floors or behind walls), without having to rely on sketches or individual photos. Each 3D reality capture tool has unique advantages and applications. Knowing which tool is the best resource in a given situation forms part of the expertise of HH Angus’ technical staff.

Our current in-house technologies capture site data via a Matterport scanner or Theta V 360 camera. The Matterport scanner has an accuracy of 99% to reality; plus 3D scans are captured in 4K, providing very detailed high-resolution images. The scans are hosted on the Matterport cloud platform, and users can easily access or share them through any web browser. We can also produce point cloud data from the Matterport scans, which can be imported into a Revit model for our clients or their third-party vendors, such as architects, contractors, facility maintenance staff, other engineering disciplines, etc. 

Point cloud
Point cloud
Reality
Reality
3D model
3D model

One of the features of the Matterport platform is the ability to create links to specific site locations in the model. Users simply click on a link to be taken instantly to a detailed 360-degree view of that area or equipment within the site model, providing real benefit to clients, their facility managers and third-party vendors.

This virtual walkthrough showcases some of the potential benefits of a Matterport walkthrough for a mechanical room. You can tag significant features, embed drawings and manuals, and create links to external documents or webpages.

Click on the image below to load the Matterport model which you can interact with and navigate in this screen.

 

Having detailed interactive maps of facility infrastructure provides important resources for future projects. The virtual walk-throughs created using the Theta V 360 camera can replace the contractors’ physical walk-through during the Tender process, freeing up client personnel traditionally required to host the walk-throughs, as well as reducing travel time, parking costs, and the carbon footprint that would otherwise be incurred for bidders traveling to and from site.  For clients interested in decreasing the carbon footprint of their operations and facilities, any opportunity to reduce pollution and wasted time makes a great deal of sense. During COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, scans produced by the Matterport scanner or 360 images and video created by the Theta V 360 are providing immense value, making remote site access possible for a range of project stakeholders. The Matterport model also provides a reliable resource for measurements that may be required for scope changes, or that may have been missed during in-person site visits. This makes return visits unnecessary and reduces time demands and the need for off-hours availability for clients who would otherwise have to be on site for these return visits.

Digital Twinning. We also see the vast potential of digital twining and the visualization of live data. In this basic digital twin, we have visualized whether the space airflow is meeting CSA 317.2 requirements. You can filter the model by level, highlight rooms that are out of range, and even zoom into a room that’s experiencing flow issues. The intent of the model is to provide visualizations that allow facility operators to decipher information more easily and make informed decisions faster.

Below is an example of a basic digital twin. Click on the image which will launch the digital twin in a new page.

Courtesy of Lett Architects

LIDARAnother major player in 3D scanning technologies is LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), essentially radar with laser.  You may have already have heard of LIDAR applications being used in autonomous driving test vehicles and in drone technology. Costs have been dropping steadily for previously expensive terrestrial scanners, and it’s now available on the Apple iPhone 12 Pro and the Apple iPad Pro.  LIDAR combines camera images with radar and laser to construct 3D images in real time in order to create a point cloud. Currently, HH Angus is testing how our proprietary HH Angus Onsite app could sync with a smartphone’s LIDAR capabilities to overcome data limits, and how it might fit into project workflows to replace some of the existing programs we’re using in the reality capture service we provide to clients. The intent is to create more efficiencies. Stay tuned for more developments as mobile LIDAR technology improves.

LIDAR on iPhone

We’re really excited about the value Reality Capture brings to our clients and our workflow. We’re even more excited about its future; from improved capabilities with tools like drones, mobile devices, and robots, to building intelligent digital twins leveraging IoT sensors that can continue with the building past design and into post-occupancy to continually monitor and improve occupancy and operating conditions.

For more information about how our scanning technologies can benefit your facilities, please contact:

Headshot of Akira Jones

Akira Jones, P.Eng.
BIM Leader
akira.jones@hhangus.com

Headshot of Melissa Parry

Melissa Parry, CanBIM P1, ACP Revit MEP
BIM Coordinator
melissa.parry@hhangus.com

September 26, 2017. Photo by Brett Gundlock

Akira Jones joined HH Angus in 2012.

What do you like most about working at HH Angus?

It’s the people, which I say to anyone who works elsewhere! This company has done a great job of bringing on people who are friendly and open, and this supports a very social environment. I’m happy to come to work every day, and I genuinely like the people I work with. When people ask me in social situations about my work, I always say, “It’s a great place to work!” And then my wife jumps in with, “oh, he loves his job so much!” I spend more time here then I do anywhere else, so it is really important to me that it’s a good place to work, it’s comfortable, management is great, it is open door everywhere – it’s the best!

How do you contribute to the design and construction of the built environment?

I joined HH Angus as a Revit specialist on the massive CHUM hospital project in Montreal (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal), where I supported our team by troubleshooting issues and managing the Revit and BIM aspects of the project. Then I transitioned into project engineering, because that’s my background, and I did project engineering on CHUM and a variety of other projects, including BMO Field, which was a very enjoyable project. Then, I began doing purely BIM work and now serve as the BIM manager. My team supports all HH Angus projects on the BIM-related aspects of our projects – hardware, software, troubleshooting, process, providing interface with other consultants regarding BIM issues, etc.

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Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal

BMO Field

How has HH Angus helped you grow in your career?

The company has always provided me with a lot of latitude to try new things and explore new technology. They provide all the support and training I need to do that. Being able to try new ideas allows staff to own their own growth, with the support of formal training and mentorship. I’ve had great mentorship from senior managers here, who provided so much insight and support early in my career to help me continue to progress.  When you’re starting out, getting that kind of knowledge transfer from somebody who has a lot more experience, and who is willing to take the time to pass it on and guide you through your career, that makes a big impact on all of us here.

Why did you want to become an engineer?   

As a kid, I really liked building stuff. I loved Lego and toys like that. My family also has a history of DIY renovations around the house, so I was always learning how to do things. Also, I was good at math and science and I assumed engineering would be the best option. How I got into consulting? I think it was pure luck; it could have been anything. But, I am very happy where I ended up, because now I get to do work that I am passionate about.

The company has always provided me with a lot of latitude to try new things and explore new technology. They provide all the support and training I need to do that.

What have been some significant projects for you?

CHUM, obviously – it’s probably the biggest project that I’ll ever work on! It had so many different moving parts, so many great teams. I gained so much experience – technical, project management, project administration, and so on. I came onto the project as a Revit expert and came out of it knowing even more, which is great. We had the opportunity to try many different approaches, software-wise and technology-wise, on CHUM and we were able to push the boundaries of BIM, which I thought was great.

Another significant project was BMO Field – it was a great project with an amazing team. It was a special because BMO Field is a landmark in Toronto, and we were able to contribute to making it a world-class soccer facility for professionals. That was pretty cool – a great learning experience.

Describe a typical day for you.

Much of my role is keeping my team moving, helping them with issues they need answers to. It doesn’t mean that I always know the answer, but I sometimes will offer a suggestion and say ‘try this and see if it works out’. I connect with clients; I have active projects, so I deal with issues on those projects; I work a lot on the technical and knowledge management aspects of our projects. A lot of my work is answering questions, solving challenges, and helping people to do the work they are trying to deliver – that’s a big part of being a manager.

What are some of the things you like about HH Angus, outside the technical work?

I love the social events - the Stampede Breakfast, Golf Day, the Christmas Luncheon. I love that we have a formal dinner dance for the entire staff every couple of years to celebrate our long-time employees. It really shows what is great about this company - you can see when we are all together in a social setting that everybody is smiling, everybody is having a good time, everybody is happy. That says a lot.

What are some accomplishments you’re proud of?

There are a couple of things, actually.  One is the Matterport scanner – I introduced it to the company and now it’s constantly in use. The employees enjoy it, the clients enjoy the benefits – that’s a great tool.

Another proud moment was finishing BMO Field. It was an extremely fast-paced, two-phase project that had to be delivered in time for the start of the soccer season. There was a very aggressive schedule. Everybody involved really had to step up. So, when both phases were completed, it was a very proud moment for me on behalf of HH Angus because, as a team, we came together and made that work.

How do you explain your job to someone outside the engineering industry?

I think most engineers experience this: somebody spots the engineer’s ring and says, “oh, you’re an engineer, so you must know how to do this or that.” Most people have only a vague idea about what engineers do and don’t really appreciate that we specialize across such a wide variety of engineering fields. So when I tell people what I do, I say that I use technology to facilitate the engineering work that we do, and keep it very simple so people’s eyes don’t glaze over. Because it’s somewhat complicated when you get into BIM and database-driven design, Revit models and databases and 3D visualization

Akira with his team

Akira with his team

What are trends in engineering that excite you?

Engineering is changing. There are so many different aspects to data and Big Data, and you can already see the impact of analytics. Large construction companies are using analytics to increase their abilities, and to manage and gain information about the project; for example, safety information or construction scheduling.

We are also able to make better decisions based on the information we have. It is not only to being able to automate some of the work that we do, but also to use technology; for example, generative design.  It is not necessarily that we do the work faster, but we can do exponentially more tasks faster. A computer can generate a thousand good options on how a building could be oriented, versus engineers using our judgment and experience and saying, “well, based on my years of experience - this is the best”. Now, the computer will give you a thousand options that are better than you could ballpark.

The ability to make really good decisions about creating efficient designs is important, because a big part of what we should be thinking about is sustainability. We have a huge part to play in creating buildings that approach Net Zero, and technology can help us make better decisions sooner, so we can create those designs. I think that’s interesting. We hear a lot about AI machines, etc.  I think that’s coming, but it may be a bit further away for consulting engineers specifically; but, we certainly can automate the work that is repetitive and labour intensive.

Is artificial intelligence going to affect the human element of our industry?

It will. Every time there is a paradigm shift in how we work, people fear that - “what are the people who do this work going to do?” But, the reality is that new technology makes the pie bigger and provides opportunities for new types of work that employ more people. This means that there will be more work that is fruitful and less work that is repetitive and unstimulating. There are so many examples: people thought ATMs were going to end tellers’ jobs. However, ATMs allowed banks to open more branches, serve more customers, and actually employ more tellers. That’s a great example of how this works. So we are going to see shifts like that.    

What skills or traits have helped you advance in your career?

Persistence! Never give up, that’s the thing - you have to keep going. Never lose the will to learn something new. We are living in a time of change – you have to be able to change how you do things at any age, you have to be able to learn something new every day and never lose the urge to try something different. Also, be kind to the people around you – HH Angus is a great example of that. This place always keeps itself moving, but it is also important to take time to help somebody, because you never know when you are going to need help. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I really like cooking! Maybe people will be surprised to know that.  And I really like taking back-country canoe trips. That’s something my wife and I have done a lot in the past and one of our favorite things to do. I also like to play Frisbee.

Enhancing the BIM process with 3D image capture

Prior to the digital age, engineers conveyed their work and collaborated through hand-drawn designs. Building inspections and site investigations were conducted using a tape measure, a pencil and graph paper. At that time, drawing by hand was the only way to accurately capture existing information and to develop new designs.

Advances in technology have since changed the way that engineers capture and convey information. Digital cameras replaced hand drawn sketches during site investigations, and computer-aided design programs, such as Sketch-up and Revit, replaced the practice of drawing by hand. These new tools lead to increased accuracy, efficiency during site investigations and design, and the ability to digitally store and reuse information.

As technology continues to develop, so too do the methods for which buildings are designed and their data is captured, stored and used. Revit has become the industry standard for accurately modeling new buildings and their systems in 3D – more commonly included as part of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Even with BIM tools, designers and engineers are confronted with days of laborious and time consuming BIM modeling due to hand-drawn measurements, notes and 2D photographs from the site which add to the length of the project schedule and budget. New technologies are emerging, including lasers and infrared beam scanners, which allow for data-rich information of existing spaces to be rapidly captured, stored and digitally explored.

HH Angus uses a Matterport 3D Scanner to capture existing spaces which is then converted into 3D models for our clients. We have used these models in a variety of situations and continue to push what can be accomplished by having an accurate, to-scale 3D model of existing buildings and their systems as well as the value it can help us deliver to our clients.

The value of 3D image capture and modeling for existing buildings projects:

1. Capture site information faster and accurately

An accurate 3D model of existing conditions (typically within a centimetre of hand measurements) through image scanning the space. This process can usually be done up to 60% faster than traditional hand measurements. Because the image scanning captures information in a point cloud, this information can be automatically imported into Revit, eliminating the need for manually entering hand measurements and reducing the time of creating the Revit model by nearly half. The BIM model can be provided to consultants, potential bidders and contractors allowing them 24/7 access. When the site information is available in a digital and 3D photorealistic format, the result is fewer questions during RFP periods and fewer site visits are required.

2. Capture spaces during construction

The ability to use image scanning to capture site information and create a 3D model at any time during construction can be very useful in a variety of situations. For example,  recording a snapshot of progress for contractor payment draws or to provide enhanced construction documentation to project stakeholders. Capturing the space when services are installed but before walls and ceiling are in place can be a great reference for reference for future maintenance and renovations.

3. Digital representation of spaces and assets

 While many newer buildings may have accurate construction data stored in a BIM model which is helpful for future renovations, expansions or retrofits, many older buildings were built before CAD and BIM was common. 3D image scanning can quickly create digital models of these existing buildings by vastly streamlining the time-consuming process of collecting building details by hand measurements and then subsequent manual entry to create a BIM model.

Information can also be associated to a building space or asset within a 3D model such as a piece of mechanical equipment or electrical panel. Information that can be mapped to an asset can include the O&M manual, last service date, information from a building condition assessment, and other types of information. This can be done for an existing facility without requiring a complete BIM model.

4. Remote access for facility managers

A 3D model can allow facility managers to ”walk” through building areas and read equipment information from a nameplate remotely with only an internet connection required. It could also be done from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. The ability to access this level of detail remotely can be extremely useful for troubleshooting and for organizations that have multiple sites spread out geographically. 

5. Future Developments in 3D Image Scanning 

Currently, point cloud data generated in 3D image scanning still needs to be converted into useable data to create a BIM model. This is typically an additional and fairly manual process. With advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, research is underway where algorithms can be used to automatically identify structural elements and interior furnishings, elimintating the need for a person to manually identify these items in the process of converting a point cloud file to a BIM model. This could even further streamline the process allowing engineers and designers to focus on value-added tasks rather than losing time on determining the status of the existing building condition.

3D Model in Action

HH Angus has captured and converted over 165 of our clients’ spaces to 3D models. We were engaged by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Centre to redesign and renovate the Nuclear Medicine and MRI areas of their Digital Imaging Suite. During the first site visit, HHA scanned the area using the Matterport Scanner to create a 3D model of the space. This model has since been used throughout the design and tender process of the project, and will continue to be used in the construction phase.

Authors:

Akira Jones

BIM Lead

akira.jones@hhangus.com

Melissa Parry

BIM Specialist

melissa.parry@hhangus.com

Melissa joined HH Angus in 2016 and is currently in the role of BIM Specialist.

What’s your favourite thing about working at HH Angus?

It’s the people – everyone cares about their job and wants to produce a high quality product. And there is a sense of community here that I like. You don’t really get that in other firms that have 200 + people, like we do.

How do you contribute to design and construction here at the company?

I work with Revit projects and our designers. I train technical staff to use the software, make sure they are following best practices, and help them to work efficiently to produce high quality drawings.

How has working at HH Angus helped you grow your career?

One of the ways management has supported my professional goals is by sending me to conferences; coming out of a conference in the US, we collaborated with Matterport in delivering a webinar about 3D scanning.

Why did you want to work at HH Angus?

While I’m not an engineer or designer, I fit in our BIM team here. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do after graduating college, I just knew that I wanted to work with Revit, because I love Revit. So, I applied for a designer position, but it turned out that the company recognized my specialized skills and put me on the BIM team!  I definitely love what I do now.  I grew into the role and everyday is a little bit different – I love it!

“The sense of community here is really awesome. It really feels like the company cares about you, supports you and helps you grow professionally. ”

What are some of the projects that you are most proud to be involved in at HH Angus?

We did a project for Toronto Western Hospital, where we used our 3D scanner to scan the interior of the power house. We generated a 3D point cloud file from those images and brought it into Revit where we then modeled all the existing MEP. It was a very new workflow for us. It was very rewarding to develop best practices and workflows on that project. And resulting from that was a class that I went on to teach at an emerging technologies conference.  The power house was our showcase project. We presented a webinar with Matterport about working with the point cloud and reality capture, and I filmed a customers sucess story with them - it was really great!

What attracted you to HH Angus, coming out of school?

I researched many other companies, and what stood out about HH Angus is that it has been in business for so long – already over a hundred years – so it has to be doing something right.  And I did notice by researching and talking to people that the company is very innovative and forward thinking and this is something that I wanted to be associated with.  I wanted a stable and rewarding career so that I can be here for another 30 years, and that’s what I found.

What are some of the things that you like about HH Angus aside from the technical aspects of your work?

The sense of community here is really awesome. It really feels like the company cares about you, supports you and helps you grow professionally. The perks are really cool too – the staff Holiday lunch in December, the staff Golf & Activity Day, the list goes on and on. I tell my friends who don’t work here all about it and they are all jealous.

What has been your proudest moment here?

When I taught that conference class. I worked so hard for many, many months, developing the entire presentation, a 14-page handout, and initially working on the project for Toronto Western Hospital. A lot of hard work went into that and it was really rewarding to finally present it to an out-of-town audience and to share my knowledge at an industry conference in Minneapolis.  A lot of industry professionals were there and it was really rewarding.

Do you have an example of a senior staff member helping you, maybe early on in your career?

My officially assigned mentor, Jovan Filipović, really helped me, and he still does. You don’t break up with your mentor after the program ends. Having a mentor was really awesome; he helped me learn what everybody’s role was, and who to talk to for different kinds of project work, and who is managing which people. We worked on conflict resolution at the beginning, because this was my first office job and I was trying to settle in and get to know everybody. We continued to meet the need; he is great resource for project advice. It is very helpful to have a mentor – everybody should have a mentor!

If someone were to ask you if they should apply to HH Angus, what would you tell them?

Absolutely yes! It’s an awesome place to work. Again – the management cares about you, your work is interesting and everyday there is something new.

What inspires you?

Seeing the fruits of my labour. It is very encouraging to see all my hard work pay off. I always try to do a good job, and when everything I put my mind to pays off, it is good to see that, very encouraging.

What aspects of your work you enjoy the most?

I enjoy training people so much. Developing the training courses, trying to make it interesting for all types of people with different personalities and especially different learning styles – that’s a big challenge in developing a training course that many people will take part in. So, I try to make my training courses fun; we get a lot of good feedback and that’s what I love the most.

What are some of the trends and technology that excite you?

Virtual reality – because we just acquired some VR tech that our team is testing. With this technology, we can export the Revit model, walk around in it and see where our designers have modeled the content and if it’s in the right place. And if it’s not, with the software we can actually move that object in the VR environment and push that straight back to Revit, so that those changes happen in the Revit model too.

Do you have any secret talents?

I like riding my motorcycle in the countryside. That’s my favourite weekend hobby, and would be my everyday hobby but I have to work.

What skills or trait have helped you the most to advance in your career?

I would say it’s knowing when I don’t know something and asking questions, researching, being willing to learn. Because I graduated from an interior design program, moving into an MEP firm was not something I knew much about. When I would get requests to model heat exchangers and air handling unit Revit families, at first I didn’t know how these work, so I asked my manager for help: “Please teach me how this equipment works, so that I know more about the systems that we model and can get it right on the first try.” So that helped me grow professionally, and to transition from interior design into MEP. Today, I can tell you all about air handing units and heat exchangers. So there you go!

Where is your dream vacation?

I’ve been to Florida, but I haven’t been to Key West in Florida. Florida is my destination - in May or October, when it’s not too hot or too cold. I've been to Disney World and it was so much fun – I love it there. So Florida – not super interesting, but it’s a vacation destination I like.