Posts Tagged reality

What Owners Need to Know When Documenting Existing Buildings ….Part II


I recently was invited to present for an IFMA Technology Council Webinar (Link to Deck Here).  Both Carlos Vasquez from Epic Scan, the other presenter , and myself had come both mostly to the same conclusions having never met and working on two different coasts.  “It really is the wild west out there.”   For instance, there are no standards on deliverables or when putting out an RFP for this kind of work.  Plus, there are a lot of people out there buying scanners and saying they can do everything that comes in the literature with the hardware.  However, owning a piece of hardware and being competent at it are two vastly different things.   Just because I own a pair of skates doesn’t mean I can get on the ice with the Rangers.  Plus, if the firm you are hiring only has one piece of hardware expect that the quote you get will be one size fits all.

My approach to any given job is to have a detailed conversation with whoever is going to use the Revit Model or Data and what they need it for.  For example, an owner doing due diligence on a property has vastly different need and budget then an architectural firm doing an adaptive reuse project on 200,000 SF of Industrial Mill Space.  So we tailor the project and technology around their needs and budget.  I would argue that an owner look at each project and start with the minimal viable product (MVP) or data set they need and then add details as the project warrants.  With that said the base line product should still be solid.  For example, we might be asked to come in to verify square footages of a building during due diligence.  This is to make certain that the prospective owner has faith that the marketed 100,000 SF actually is 100,000 SF of rentable space.  This might just require us to get the shell and cores correctly.  But be certain that is done well enough so if going forward we need to add the mechanical plant, or interior partitioning, etc. we have a good foundation to start from.

If you are looking to document your building for almost any stage, due diligence, BOMA calculations, Interior Design, Adaptive Reuse there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

• Size and Complexity of the Project
• Interior/Exterior
• Deadlines and Time Constraints
• Budget and Available Resources
• Uses for Models

and when choosing a vendor or service provider…get references, see if they have done similar projects, ask them about their process and their technology.  When done right having a model or your building documented properly, accurately pays dividends many times over, when done wrong it has Excedrin written all over it.


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What’s That in the Sky? Sweet Jesus it’s an Autodesk Octo-Copter.

Autodesk deployed it’s Octo-Copter in Africa for high resolution reality capture.  This was done in support of Louis Leakey in Kenya in search of our ancestral trails

Additonally, they deployed it on their head quarters in San Rafael.

From the Gizmag Website:

The Mikrokopter Octocopter is an 8-rotor flying platform which has a 2 kg (4.4 lbs) capacity to carry cameras. It can be flown using an internal camera to give the operator a copter-based vantage point on video glasses, or can be programmed to follow a GPS-controlled flight path. An Octocopter can fly autonomously at altitudes up to 1000 meters (3280 feet), or can be manually flown as high as 3500 meters (11,480 feet). In the Autodesk tests video was captured using a GOPro Hero 2 camera, and the still pictures from which the 3D model was later built were taken by a remotely triggered Canon SLR camera.

Autodesk 123D is a suite of programs which allow a user to create, manipulate, and construct 3D objects using a 3D printer. Catch is part of the 123D suite, and offers a standalone software package that helps you create 3D models from a series of 2D digital images of an object or a scene. The spatial resolution available using 123D Catch is about 1 part in 600, or 0.167% of the total size of the object pictured, so you would be able to accurately place individual windows on a 3D model of a Boeing 747.


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Current Technologies for Reality Capture : #Revit #BIM #AU2011

I was at the recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas and sat in the session for Reality Capture for Rapid Energy Modeling by Jess Miller who discussed the current technologies and work flows to document existing buildings digitally in Revit.  As it stands the 4 available today are:

  • Satellite Imagery
  • Laser Scanning
  • 123D Catch (aka Photofly)
  • PKNail Pro

All of these technologies with the exception of PKNail, yes I do have a horse in this race, require a user to extract geometry from one program and draft in another.  PKNail allows a user to survey and model directly in Revit.  However, the most important task is choosing the right tool for the job and usually this is driven by the scope of the project/deliverable, what the model is going to be used for, and conditions and access of the building.  First, let’s look briefly at the current technologies and how they work.

Satellite Imagery

this requires getting oblique images from a source such as bing maps or Pictometry, that then can then be scaled and traced over in Revit.  While it could be the least expensive of the methods it is generally a lot less accurate, requires something that allows you to scale the photos properly either on site measurements, existing plot plan, or CAD floor plan and any real details will not be included.  This might prove to be an okay method to extract geometry for energy modeling but the model would end there, you could not use it to move forward with an architectural model.  Additionally, it requires a sophisticated users knowledge of Revit through linking photos and extracting geometry.

Laser Scanning.

This is generally done as a service, that is you hire a company who has a laser scanner to create a pointcloud of the building you need.  Estimates range from $3-$5K per day to have someone scanning a building.  I know from experience that I have been quoted almost $60,000 to scan the exterior and interior of a single story industrial building and that did not include the Revit model we needed.  We would have to build that ourselves from the point cloud.   However, if you need an accurate 3D data set of an existing structure it is an excellent resource.  You will need to import the pointcloud into Revit and trace over it to create the geometry making it at least a 2 step process.  There are some technologies available such as Imaganit from Rand Technologies that will allow a user to extract some geometry to Revit but it is still a manual process.  I have seen excellent use of this technology is extensive exposed MEP projects, think boiler room or oil rig, or difficult and inaccessible geometry, such as the Capitol Dome.

123D Catch,

is a program that allows you take pictures of building, send them up into the cloud and have them stitched together and served back to you as a 3D Photo model that you can then scale and extract geometry from.    I have not had success using this product.  I want to be successful using this product because I think it would be awesome but the few times I have sent something up to the could I get back something that looks like I am looking through a kaleidoscope.  I highly recommend you take a look because as the technology progresses and computers get more powerful this will only get better.

PKNail Pro for Revit,

this is an add in to Revit that allows you to create real Revit objects, driven wirelessly from laser range finder (Disto D8) and from measurements in the field.  That is measure wall, press a button and the wall is created directly in Revit.  This is the only software that works within the actual BIM software so there is no need to translate or extract geometry.  PKNail Pro automates current workflows and data capture and allows a user to finish the model on site.  It excels at creating dimensionally correct 3D models of the both the interior and exterior.  However, if you need a lot of exterior detail you may want to pair it with another of the technologies to create gutter sweeps, cornice work, etc. if that is needed on the project.  PKNail also recognizes any Revit wall so you could another technology/method to create the exterior and use PKNail Pro to capture all the interior fit outs.

What it boils down to is what is needed based on the scope of the project and your budget.  Choose the right tool for the job and don’t limit yourself, because who wants to use a hammer when you need a screw driver, or use a jackhammer when you need to hang a picture.  I’ll work on my metaphors, you work on capturing reality.


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