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.