5 Steps: How to Start Using Capture, Compute & Create Technologies for Your AEC Firms

A 1.518Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

What you will learn:
The five steps to understanding and utilizing Capture, Compute & Create building documentation technologies related to Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firms.
July 2014 annual "Hype Cycle" from Gartner
U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) bid documents.
Top technologies at Autodesk’s REAL2015 conference that will impact the AEC industries.

For over 16 years we have been providing professional services for architects, engineers and general contractors (GC’s) with Capture & Compute technologies. We have seen capture hardware go from 200 pounds to 11 pounds, hardware & software acquisitions all over the industry and a phone turn into a 3D data capture device. All of the big AEC hardware and software vendors produce products using Capture, Compute & Create building documentation technologies.

The economy is improving, technologies are providing real tangible value to our lives, our phones are ringing more than ever and we’ve seen more than 30% increases in our clients’ use of our services for the last 2 years. All these trends are creating incredible opportunities!

I wanted to share the July 2014 annual "Hype Cycle" from Gartner. I always find it fascinating to see where the various technologies are on the hype cycle. Notice that 3D scanners are exiting the "Slope of Enlightenment" and entering the "Plateau of Productivity." While this all sounds very profound, I believe the take away is that these Capture building documentation technologies are here. This along with the positive trends listed above are creating an exciting world full of inspiring and innovative activities.

If you feel like you’re not fully in the game here’s a 5 step plan to get you started:

STEP 1: What are Capture, Compute and Create building documentation technologies?
Capture: Laser and photo technologies that capture 2D & 3D as-builts of our world. They typically range in accuracy from 0.050" – 6.0" This means no more . measuring tapes, pencil, paper and transcribing your notes to create your as-built drawings. The massive data capture rates and ways we can analyze this data is leading to an exciting future.

Compute: Varying hardware and software combinations compute the captured 3D data into products that primarily support the AEC industries. Autodesk & Bentley support the use of Capture, Compute & Create technologies in all their design software. 3D point cloud as-builts show you every last detail of your project and can now be another layer of information you view whenever you need it. 3D point cloud as-builts can be used to compute the following and more:
2D Architectural drawings
Topo maps
Virtual surveying via 3D point cloud
Scaled orthos in plan or elevation
Virtual site access
3D models
Facility management
Finite element analysis
Energy efficiency

Create: Architects, engineers and GC’s use our data to design, build, analyze, prove, visualize, 3D print and ultimately create the world we live in.

STEP 2: Why would AEC firms use Capture, Compute & Create building documentation technologies?
These technologies will allow you to improve the quality and efficiency of your processes, enhance your value to your clients and take advantage of the latest business opportunities that your firm will be dependent on in the near future. They have profoundly increased the amount of information we can gather about the world we live in and analyze it in ways that were never possible. The "Big Data" Capture, Compute & Create capabilities is breaking down every barrier that exists in the AEC industry and changing how we interact with the world we live in.

Capturing and Creating 3D as-builts happens in days vs. weeks or months with more information than was ever possible. Bid documents are produced in weeks vs. months. Collaboration increases due to intuitive ways to view and analyze your project. Communication improves now that you can see your project virtually and in 3D. You can design and build an entire project virtualy before mobilizing a single construction crew.

STEP 3: What are the fees?
First it’s important to understand that the higher the project accuracy and resolution of data requirement, the more expensive the equipment, the shorter the range of the technology, the longer the project takes to Capture, the longer the data takes to process into useable deliverables which results in higher fees. Yes, I know that’s a mouthful but that’s everything in one sentence. It’s important your service provider truly understands your project’s intent, scope, schedule and budget requirements to ensure the solution they develop takes all these aspects into consideration (see USIBD’s bid documents below).

Next, you have to define the deliverables you want. Do you want just the 3D as-built point cloud, 2D orthos, 2D drawings, 3D geometry model (no intelligence), Building Information Model (BIM), 3D print, others?

Always remember that your project requirements ultimately define the cost. The variable will be your service provider’s knowledge and willingness to employ the varying technologies (based on your projects requirements) to get the most bang for your buck. I urge you all to slow down so you can hurry up. Having a clear understanding of your project’s intent, scope, schedule and budget will result in quality and efficiencies never before realized. Here’s a range of 3D as-built technology fees to get you in the ballpark:

Capture: $0.05/sqft. – $1.50/sqft.
Compute: $0.05/sqft. – $4.00/sqft
Create: This includes everything from typical construction projects to the latest 3D printing which is far too vast to estimate.

STEP 4: When would I solicit for 3D building documentation services?
The sooner you have 3D building documents and all their varying data formats the higher value they will have to all parties involved. Every person and phase starting with preliminary investigation will benefit from this information. START NOW!!!

STEP 5: How do I start?
Getting educated is one of the most time consuming and complicated aspects of this. The majority of the knowledge currently exists amongst those providing the products and services. Developing a relationship with one of these service providers is the shortest path to the information. Otherwise, industry conferences, publications and blogs are the best source for information. Here’s a few I attend and follow:

Industry related conferences

Industry publications and blogs

Download the U. S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) bid documents. Thankfully USIBD has standardized the solicitation of these professional Capture services by producing an RFQ Template, RFP Template, 3D Imaging (Point Cloud) Specification & Level of Accuracy Specification. We have many other documents in the works and we are looking for volunteers to participate in setting these standards. This is a great opportunity for people new to the industry to get involved and make a difference.

Now you have a basic knowledge and some of the tools to solicit for these services and end up with deliverables that will allow you and your project to realize all the product, efficiency and opportunity improvements.

Carlos G. Velazquez is the President of Epic Scan, a premier 3D service provider that has been involved with terrestrial LiDAR since its inception and more recently advanced photogrammetry techniques. Carlos has a focus to bring LiDAR technologies into everyday Architectural applications and serves as Chair of the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) Standards Committee.

A 1.518Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE