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3D modelling services
29 August 2022
Manoj Singh

How Point Cloud Data Helps Create Accurate 3D Models for Commercial Buildings

If a picture paints a thousand words, accurate 3D models offer a vast range of information and design details. When point cloud data is used to create 3D models for commercial buildings, this information will be precise and accurate. Further, incorporating point cloud data with Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the design process will prove considerably advantageous. However, this may need high-quality 3D BIM modelling services to ease the workflow.

Commercial buildings are generally described as buildings used for business operations and activities. Commercial buildings and property are generally classified into the following categories:

  • Office buildings
  • Retail buildings
  • Industrial buildings
  • Hotels and motels

From small buildings to skyscrapers, commercial buildings dot the urban landscape. Retail buildings, with retail sales shops and restaurants, are governed by several local zoning regulations and state laws. Industrial buildings have manufacturing, repair, research and development outlets and warehouses and are located in specially designated zones falling under local ordinances and regulations, which means they need to have precise planning and communication of their design details.

Why BIM?

To help execute this precision, we look to the scan to BIM process. But first, why do we want to use BIM?

  • As BIM is a highly organised planning method to generate 3D models in the construction industry, a lone BIM model can hold the details of an entire commercial building, its surroundings and its physical and functional characteristics, in a single dataset.
  • These intelligent 3D models include clearly defined design elements and how each element relates to other elements. Any modification to one element in the BIM model results in the change being updated to all sections, elevations and views, which can be of significant advantage when dealing with large commercial buildings.
  • Also, the BIM process involves improved collaboration between multiple stakeholders, so that each stakeholder can add, extract, update or change data in the BIM model. Thus, stakeholders can work simultaneously on the same coordinated models to seamlessly plan, design, construct and manage the workflow of a commercial building project.
  • There is an increasing demand for BIM schematics in the industry for existing commercial buildings, and point cloud data that contributes to the scan-to-BIM process is a highly relevant part of the BIM process.
  • Where a project involves a pre-existing structure, the point cloud capture of as-built conditions can provide important data in a BIM model of an existing commercial building before renovation commences.
Scan to BIM & Design

How does scan to BIM help the design process?

What the scan to BIM process achieves is that it digitally captures a physical space as laser scan data, which enables the creation, development and maintenance of a BIM model. This happens when laser scan data, collected in the form of a point cloud, a set of data points in a 3D coordinate system, accurately and precisely represents the external or internal surface of a commercial building.

It can take a long time and meticulous planning to collect data on an existing commercial building, especially if any previous modifications to the building have not been properly recorded. Incomplete or unreliable information may have been used to create BIM models of existing buildings, and as-built documentation may be outdated, incomplete or both. Bringing together fragmented data to generate a BIM model may not be reliable. Collecting actual data to verify models may need a physical visit for measurements and photographs.

The scan-to-BIM process uses 3D laser scanning to digitally capture an existing building as a point cloud, for the creation and updating of a BIM model. The 3D laser scanners capture a high-density point cloud of a physical building, from which a BIM model is created that reflects actual conditions and details. These accurate 3D models can be used for as-built documentation, project renovations and additions or even facility management.

  • A 3D laser scanner in or outside the commercial building can quickly build a precise point cloud dataset and model.
  • Reliable floor plans in a modern, standardised format are easier to obtain with a 3D model generated from point cloud data.
  • Scan to BIM compares actual progress to planning at every project stage.
  • Inspections can take place off site.
  • Nearby structures can be protected from damage with updated schematics of building utility works, identifying potential problems early on.
  • The facility managers of existing commercial buildings can use the data for efficient building management, precisely report faults for maintenance and reduce carbon footprints by knowing where to add extra insulation.

Point cloud data used in the scan-to-BIM process is applicable for commercial projects where data on an existing building needs to be recorded for renovation, refurbishment, conservation or for an extension to be built. It can also be used on new projects to generate a record of the existing adjacent buildings or when a building needs to be demolished. Further advantages of using point cloud data are:

  • Point cloud data creates a single digital ‘source of truth’, in contrast to gleaning data from drawings created from different, at times unreliable, sources.
  • Existing commercial buildings may not have as-built documentation, or the existing plans may be outdated. Point cloud data used in scan-to-BIM can create considerably precise and transparent data.
  • Accurate 3D models created from this data enable clients to view the building without visiting the site.
  • Point cloud data can be uploaded to BIM software to create 3D walk-throughs for clients to experience the building from wherever they are.
  • The models generated from point cloud data help stakeholders understand planning challenges or health hazards, such as the presence of toxic materials or difficulties in accessing the site.

Point cloud-generated 3D models provide architects and engineers certain key benefits, such as:

1. Speed
  • Can quickly determine existing conditions
  • Can virtually construct buildings faster
  • 3D models provide a more accurate picture.
  • Architects and engineers don’t spend time looking for clashes in 2D drawings, allowing them to finish faster.
2. Precision and control
  • 3D laser scanning collects accurate as-is data.
  • Professionals can use data sets to create pin-point models of real spaces.
  • Architects and engineers don’t spend time measuring and re-measuring parts of a commercial building to develop a precise model.
  • Architects and engineers notice design issues or weaknesses in the structural integrity of a commercial building at early stages of the project.
3. Visualisation
  • Architects and engineers can test possible scenarios with their designs viewed as 3D models, helping to validate plans and identify any problems.
  • 3D renderings of designs save architects time and money by confirming that they are fulfilling their project needs.
To know more about point cloud.

It is easier and less expensive to alter a project in the design stage rather than after projects commence. Creating 3D modelling that uses data collected from laser scanners can give design professionals the advantages they need to finish projects quickly, efficiently and within budget. If, due to time and resource constraints, they require reliable BIM modelling services, it is becoming increasingly popular to source these
3D modelling services from offshore partners.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing 3D modelling services and point cloud to BIM modelling services for general contractors and consultants. Our range of services for consultants and manufacturers across the world include point cloud to BIM and 3D BIM modelling services. We create these models and drawings by using Revit, AutoCAD and BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration.