Laser scanning, also known as high definition surveying (HDS), is a highly accurate method of mapping a building and site. The process is performed by measuring the time interval to reflect a laser off a point on the building and return. The laser scanning mechanism does this millions of times from different points around the site to produce precise positional data of virtually all points on the existing structure. This data can then be converted into a visual representation of the environment in BIM software, often called a point cloud.
How Does Laser Scanning Work?
A typical HDS mechanism contains a rotating laser atop a stand or tri-pod. The laser is projected toward the target using constantly rotating mirrors to capture the position of points from top to bottom, and the mechanism rotates from side to side to pan the laser horizontally. Once as much possible data from the current location has been taken, the contraption is moved to another area on site and the process repeated until the full structure has been mapped.
Using BIM modeling software, the readings from each location are then combined to create a single point cloud. This point cloud contains millions of accurately positioned points to serve as a reference for creating 3D model elements in the BIM program. Most laser scanning mechanisms will also use a camera to help create a realistic visual of the site in addition to the conversion of positional data.
Why Is Laser Scanning Useful?
Laser scanning provides superior results compared to other surveying methods as it produces a massive amount of data points with very little time and labor. A building site can be completely mapped in hours by a single person with highly reliable measurements. No methods of measuring by hand provide anywhere near the same efficiency, nor do they provide a visual representation of the structure at the same time. Not only are these point cloud models and images useful for visualizing and navigating the site, they streamline the process of creating an accurate 3D model in BIM software. Having a reliable reference of existing conditions is highly valuable in the construction process and will reduce issues and errors throughout the project life cycle.
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