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3 February 2023
Shalini John

How Can Point Cloud Models Help Existing Structures Transform into Residences?

American writer and publisher John Bartlett once wrote, ‘An antique is anything old with class.’ Though not necessarily antique, old commercial or retail buildings are sometimes classy enough to keep around, and in most cases, they can be modified to become welcome residential spaces. As it is with many things that are old, care must be taken in the process of such developments. One of the modern methods used to do so is scan to BIM or point cloud to BIM.

What are the factors that developers must consider in this process?

  • Potential complications that may arise in dealing with an old building
  • Including specialists in the redesign and build process
  • Retaining the building’s identity while opting for ‘low intervention’ solutions

In general, hidden or undetected or unaccounted defects in old buildings can increase construction risks, one of the prime incentives for developers to use design professionals with relevant experience.

Apartment complexes typically require a repetitive provision of near-identical units. Old hotels or industrial buildings, such as mills or warehouses with large regular floor plates and structural grids, can be reinvented to serve as new apartment blocks. Industrial buildings such as these are usually more flexible and present fewer problems during conversion.

Sometimes, a warehouse can have too much depth to provide natural light, which can be solved by inserting atria. Old buildings can also have low ceilings or other physical limitations. Conversion to a residential unit may involve adapting irregular spaces, upgrading of fabric to meet sound transmission and ensuring that building services successfully cater to modern thermal requirements.

Point clouds and point cloud models can help enable these processes. Although architectural drawings may show how a building may look and objects can be described using formulae, they cannot always convey the details and true imagery of an old building.

What are point clouds and what do they do?

They capture the coordinates of a single point in a building, and when a group of points have their coordinates recorded, they become a point cloud, where each point in the point cloud holds an extensive amount of data which can then by utilised to create a detailed 3D model of an existing structure. Specialist software helps develop a virtual copy of the building from the data captured in a laser scan.

The 3D models created this way can store detailed and immersive information about an old building, which can then by integrated, accessed, modified and viewed during the design process. Processing point clouds is fast, simple and permit the access of information from anywhere.

Benefits of Point Clouds to Transform Old Buildings
Working Offsite
  • Contractors usually need to visit a construction site several times to take notes, measurements or try to visualise new ideas. Using a point cloud model, these tasks can be performed from anywhere other than the site. Laser scans gather extensive details and models help designers decide how to use that information to complete plans or prefabrication, without visiting the site.
  • Scanned information can include data to analyse supply points, piping, valves, fixtures and fittings, from any office, improving project efficiency. Costs are minimised while logistical planning can be improved.
  • Time spent on the site can thus be optimised so that teams know what to expect and do before reaching the site, reducing errors, delays and misunderstandings.
Improved Coordination & Design
  • Point cloud models can be shared between project stakeholders. Both data and tasks can even be integrated into 3D models. Scanned data of an old building can be integrated into BIM (Building Information Modelling) mock-ups to help create commercial proposals and also provide 3D visualisation and help further collaborative design. On-site teams can communicate with other teams elsewhere without sending site photos.
  • Designers can create and share plans before ordering and buying new building materials.
  • This data can also be integrated with VR (virtual reality) technology to give viewers an accurate look and feel of the old structure and determine how it can be modified for residential purposes.
  • Old buildings in dangerous conditions can have teams working securely on design using point clouds.
Avoiding Errors
  • Renovation projects require project stakeholders to invest a considerable chunk of time evaluating the existing architectural data. A 3D laser scan collects accurate, current data in formats used by the project teams, without having to rely on old blueprints.
  • Point cloud models can be created in less than a day.
  • Point cloud models can help construction teams plan around classic architectural features and salvage good-quality building engineering elements in the building.
  • When remodelling a building into an apartment or residential block, it may be required to repair damage or replace faulty, existing building services systems, such as ducts, plumbing or electrical wiring.
  • Structural point cloud models can help understand if non-load bearing walls and partitions can be removed/reconfigured or if load bearing elements can be modified.
  • Scan to BIM services for engineering can help improve energy efficiency when possible, increase the building’s longevity and reduce operational costs.

To conclude, point cloud models help old buildings transform into residences or residential units while attempting to retain their old-world charm. With the right scan to BIM services support, designers can avail of accurate and reliable point cloud to MEP BIM services to convert point clouds to MEP models, so that old buildings find a new purpose.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing scan to BIM services and point cloud to MEP BIM services for general contractors and consultants. Our range of services for consultants and manufacturers across the world include point cloud to BIM, structural point clouds, scan to BIM services for engineering and we can convert point clouds to MEP models. We create these models and drawings by using Revit, AutoCAD and BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration.