When an A&E firm asks – “how can we provide the best technical and engineered solutions for a project,” the answers will inevitably be a mix of many different viewpoints. An enterprise-based architectural mindset will focus on the optimization of the company’s resources and processes, placing a greater weight on collaboration and communication.
A technical-oriented view will generally look through the lense of a project manager, seeding and developing design teams, and looking to software and IT to play a vital role in the success of the project. And finally, a solutions-driven reaction would convert previous design solutions to meet the requirements of the present client.
Today, Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) allows A&E firms to apply collaborative, technical, and solutions-based processes that go beyond the constraints of a single platform to greatly improved the architectural design and construction results. These virtual technologies include Point Cloud to Revit Modeling, BIM of Measured Building Surveys, and Urban Planning and Visualization techniques.
BIM as a process, will naturally translate seamlessly to virtual design and construction. While BIM provides a container for the 3D model, building performance parameters, engineering analysis, and construction processes, the virtual design and construction methodology enables across-the-board team communication while integrating real world elements within the design framework.
BIM Modeling of Existing Buildings
There are a number of scenarios where A&E consultants will seek outsourced engineering services to BIM-capture existing structures. When a facility requires renovations, additional floorspace and energy systems capacity, or projects at historic preservation sites, attaining access to the hidden structural framing is sometimes impossible, and often time-consuming. Virtual technologies can be used to identify building elements and verify incomplete or erroneous data from older blueprints by attaining a measured building survey of the built environment.
Another driving factor for BIM modeling of existing buildings is the rising cost of energy – prompting facility owners to improve the energy efficiency of the building and of the mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Major retrofitting of a building’s energy system, especially when active solar systems will be installed, requires, at a minimum, an energy audit and thermal modeling of the existing building.
A BIM of Measured Building Survey is a comprehensive and accurate way to create a 3D-based object representation of the structure, followed by the addition of critical systems information and construction materials data which will also support future project phases – mainly 4D and 5D BIM. The BIM compatibility workflow progresses from information capture to 3D computer modeling, followed by structural and systems characteristics identification, to building performance analysis, and finally to energy systems improvements and and building envelope heat loss reductions.
Improvements in occupant comfort level and building performance of existing structures has been difficult to determine and implement with traditional methods. A BIM of Measured Building Survey gives a better understanding of building performance to reduce carbon emissions, provide a healthier employee environment, and deliver energy and facilities management cost savings.
Measured Building Surveys as a VDC Tool
Measured Building Survey is a land surveying software solution that also facilitates the engineering and construction phases of A&E. This as-built tool replaces traditional building and land surveying methods. Using hand-held laser measuring devices, photogrammetry, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), real-time building data is captured and analyzed. The resulting point cloud data can be delivered in 2D, 3D, or BIM-compatible formats.
This virtual capture of the environment also becomes an important tool for land development, urban landscape planning, and the construction process in congested areas. Using bluetooth technology, PC tablets, and reflectorless instrumentation – highly detailed and very precise building or land surveys are quickly accomplished – all in the digital (or virtual) realm. The results of the survey can be used for a number of architectural documentation needs, including:
- General Arrangement Plans
- Street Scenes
- Scaled Floor Plans
- Internal Elevations
- Roof Plans
- Facade Measurements
- As-Built Checking
- Field Clash Detection
As a virtual design and construction tool, this technology reduces project costs, increases team collaboration, and supplies visualization and presentation needs. Also expect enhanced site logistics from concept to construction, validation of system installations, and facility management considerations. VDC is meant to complement traditional design and construction processes by adding to 3D BIM; and a measured building survey accomplishes that task with a quantitative, tangible, technology-based solution.
Satisfying 4D and 5D BIM Requirements
While 3D BIM presents a multi-disciplinary data model of the structure, 4D BIM will support construction phase planning and 5D BIM is used for budget tracking and cost analysis related activities. Once a BIM-compatible model is created from a measured building survey, renovations and retrofit projects can take advantage of both 4D and 5D BIM technology.
4D modeling is used for construction project phasing. The 3D BIM model is converted to 4D by adding another dimension – time (the estimated amount of time for field demolition, erection, installations, and other activities). By having a very clear sense of the structure’s current dimensions and materials, this 4D information will assist architects and engineers in the design phase by improving design constructability. Contractors will use the information to discuss the construction budget and validate construction schedules with the project owner.
When the additional parameter of “cost” is integrated into the 4D BIM, the project meets 5D BIM requirements. 5D assists in the design phase to develop cost-effective and more efficient solutions to the renovation project. 5D BIM is used for cost estimation, advanced bill-of-materials, managing scope changes, and overall cost analysis activities.
Software Solutions for BIM-Modeling of Measured Building Survey
Google SketchUp allows plug-ins that can handle extremely large point-clouds of the laser scanned structure. The measured-building survey can then be integrated with Google’s geo-location services which returns accurate location and radius-based information, including cell-towers and wifi nodes for communications improvements to the structure. SketchUp is compatible with Adobe products and other rendering programs.
AutoCAD easily handles detailed surveys from 3D laser scanning of the most complex structures. The software allows for a more efficient project and reduces planning errors – even if BIM technology is not being used. AutoCAD allows 3D visualization of the architect’s design intent with scan-to-mesh software tools.
Mesh objects are then converted to 3D solids where they be modified and rendered – saving tons of time compared to modeling from a blank slate. A video can then be produced to create animations for use in client presentations. A fly-over animation of the property and surrounding landscape can be a stirring way to get project stakeholders excited about a proposed concept.
Revit is the premier CADD product for point cloud to modeling BIM technology solutions. The following features make Revit Architecture the go-to choice for full BIM of Measured Building Surveys:
- designers extract inferred geometry points and measurements such as plane intersections or the centerline of a cylinder, in this way hidden dimensions can be extrapolated
- AutoDesk Revit algorithms automatically segment and group point cloud data into delineated surfaces and edges, reducing much of the manual tasks involvement when creating real-world objects
- creative visualizations and client presentations are achieved by applying stylized colors and dot-pattern densities to adjust transparency or opaquing levels
- assists field condition verification by accurately depicting multiple objects that are integrated (or possibly clash) within a structure
- removes labor-intensive field measurements by accurately modeling fine details within a built-environment
- accurate restoration portrayal of intricate craftsmanship, embellishments, and scroll work of architectural building products