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SLAM and Drones and HDLS….oh my.

There seems to be new tech, and “reality capture” methods popping up on the daily. The lens that I look at it through though is how can any of the technologies and methods get us to a point quicker and more accurately. No, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping ) , these devices and specifically the ones developed by GeoSlam, was the first time I bought a demo and did not want the rep to leave my office with what he brought. The conversation went something like this “I’ll take it”. “Okay we can write you up and deliver….” “No I’ll take what you have in your hands right now, how much” and subsequently we bought another. As far as the combination of speed, cost and quality (granularity of data) I have found it pretty remarkable in what it does. It has its limitations though and why we augment SLAM data with other collection methods to get us to a better whole, and again; this depends on the scope of the project.

Many of you, certainly if you are reading this, are familiar with HDLS (High Definition Laser Scanning) which most people just refer to as LIDAR . Why make the distinction? Because LIDAR really is the big tent, laser scanning as a whole, and all the machines, processes are the acts. HDLS typically requires individual set ups, the machines stay stationary and the process while slower and more cumbersome still produces the highest density of data. To help explain this I’ve come up with possibly a slightly less confusing metaphor or perhaps no help at all. Steam, water and ice. With steam water in the gas phase and it’s molecules are far part, relatively speaking, water, liquid phase are tight, and ice, water in solid form the molecules are tighter yet. With scanning the density of the points, like water molecules are tighter or farther apart based on the technology you are using and why we need to use different ones based on the scope of the project.

In the images I have included, the first one is created through HDLS using tripod mounted stationary FARO Focus. If you zoom in, you can see the handles on the cabinets, the images in the painting, etc, this is because the machine takes photos as part of the process, at least in this case) and maps them to the collected points, giving us a true 3D representation of the space, which is the back of a theater by the way.

In the second I have included both the SLAM cloud and HDLS together, you can see where the SLAM backfilled around the objects and the cabinets, giving us data to model from, the extents of walls, heights and profiles of objects, etc.

The last is solely a SLAM cloud, I can tell what and where the objects are but the cloud is just a mass, no photos, and the details/density would not allow us to determine, let’s say, the cabinet handles. Do you need definition of handles? Or in most cases of documenting existing, do you just need a volumetrically correct model that looks good in elevation and model view. We’ve completed projects where the client wanted a 3D database of almost everything because they were retrofitting an HVAC package into an existing and very significant building. They wanted to A) document everything properly and B) be able to fabricate any objects from the data in case they were damaged during construction. This was obviously a case where we needed to create high def scans through out the entire building, in classrooms though, which did not have significant architectural detail we used our own software, PKNail, to create the geometry. It’s the ability to blend technologies and capture methods that allows a service provider to best serve the client from a detail and budgetary point of view.  After you’ve completed the data collection, made sure all the data is registered to each other, even from disparate sources, that is SLAM with HDLS, with Drone captured data, etc. you’ll need to choose whether you want Revit or Autocad…but that’s an entirely different conversation, however, more times than not when using these technologies together you are creating a robust 3D data base of the building that can be revisited for any questions or even new documentation needs.

PRO CON
HDLS Best granularity of data. Point density. Almost all machines are stationary so every shot needs to be set up and registered. Although software advances have helped in automation. Slower process.
SLAM Quick, captures data at walking speed. Decent density for details and over all dimensions. Covers areas well where it has range. Limited range. Occasional hiccups and data “drift”
Drone Quickest, Exterior Only, great for massing and building geometry. Capturing data in hard or inaccessible places. Captures hi-res images of project. Limited data density to pick up details. Object distortion.

Pros and Cons of SLAM / HDLS / Drone ©Pointknown 2018

Below are some screenshots that will put most to sleep but if you’ve read this far, maybe not. The large one is of combined clouds (HDLS / SLAM) of a building we completed in LA.  They were registered together, and rendered in Revit / ReCap.  The first of the smaller ones is a close up of a wall with just the SLAM cloud. The second is the HDLS data overlaid the wall in Revit, the last is just the data. You’ll notice how tight the HDLS Line, with very little spread between the data points. The SLAM data looks faded in comparison and the “spread” between the farthest data point and closest is about 1/2”, that is the HDLS line looks like it was drawing with a ball point pen, the SLAM with highlighter. Experience in dealing with both sets, pro and cons can helpTretinoin cream

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delaware_bldgBuilding on my earlier SLAM post, we’ve been utilizing the combination of SLAM and PKNail Pro to great success.  Recently we completed over 300,000 SF of office tower in Wilmington, DE with the total time on site coming in just under 12 hours, yes that’s right 12 hours.  The scope of the project included BOMA reporting and CAD, and while the parking garages were not initially part of the scope, we walked the garage with SLAM so had a 3D database in case it was needed in the future, and in this case, it was needed in less than a week and we did not need to revisit the site, saving the client both time and money.

Process: Walk each floor with SLAM, create 3D database by floor.  Build out interiors, sample floor, with PKNail Pro, capturing typical window assemblies, doors, plumbing objects, wall thicknesses.  Back office included the combination of surveying data, creating spaces within Revit and exporting both spreadsheet data, CAD and plotted floor plans.

 

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buildingslamSLAM technology. SLAM, besides sounding rather cools stands for ( Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). And this is is an evolution in the creation of point clouds.  Why? SLAM technology allows a user to walk through space, and in essence, create a continuous point cloud of an entire space.  Previous technologies require a machine to be placed on a tripod, and continually set up in different locations.  To get a full ‘picture’ of whatever you are scanning separate scans  have to be ‘stitched’ together, which is not as automated a process as you might imagine.   While Leica continues it onslaught of proprietary products and continuous scanning with its Pegasus systems, SLAM is based on open standards and researched extensively through the robotics industry.  Off the shelf technology in the form of Hitachi Lasers, Rasberry Pi Processors and the like will start to open up new devices and allow new manufacturers to enter what has been a highly technical and closed field.

While SLAM devices do not have the high fidelity of HDLS, it does allow for some pretty excellent data collection that is typically at a level needed for most building documentation, leaving highly specific / detailed tasks for the more heavyweight scanners, think exposed and extensive MEP, physical plans, historic documentation/reconstruction.  Personally, using SLAM devices in combination with our PKNail Pro allows us to move through spaces quickly, efficiently, accurately capturing building geometry with both systems and creating dimensionally accurate Revit objects on the fly with PKNail Pro.    This allows us to get in and out of space with minimal interruptions, and allows for quick turn around which is great for building owners/investors through due diligence, BOMA calculations or looking to repurpose/reprogram a building.  Recently, we were in and out of 300,000SF of tower in Wilmington Delaware in less than 36 hours.

While SLAM allows for the quick collection of data, interpreting, understanding the data and turning the data into usable documentation still remains very much a craft process.  Too many times I have seen a product, such as a Revit model, turned out by groups who fail to understand how building are put together and designed which eventually turns into a product that confuses and confounds the people/architects who need to use it.   In the next post I hope to dive into this process vs. product a bit deeper.

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PK Ocean SprayPointknown was tasked with capturing Ocean Spray’s HQ, over 160,000 SF of Office Space and Labs over 3 Floors  set on  hundreds of acres of woods and bogs in Lakeville, MA.  Because of the nature of the building and deliverable we were able to capture the bulk of the features and geometry directly with PKNail Pro, allowing us to measure and model in real time in the field.  Interior Wall Partitioning, Bathroom Layouts, Windows and Doors.  After the geometry was completed we placed the acoustical tile grids, and placed objects directly with the Revit interface.

For surveying and documenting buildings having a set of tools allows a provider to offer the right solution set to your clients.  Not everything’s a nail so carry more than a hammer.  We first developed PKNail Pro because we needed another tool set in the field, and started offering it commercially because clients asked us if we would provide it.  Does it do everything, no; it was intended and designed to capture typical conditions very well, and quickly by turning measurements directly into Revit based objects, walls, windows doors, locate / place wall based objects from plumbing to electrical to fire protection and it does that very well.

Quote of the Project Upon Early Arrival and Hearing Barking/Howling:  “No…those aren’t dogs, those are coyotes.”

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18 Tremont     

 

    We recently delivered a Revit EB (Existing Building) Model of 18 Tremont a historic 12-story, 202,000-square-foot office with ground-floor retail in downtown Boston. The building was acquired by DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners in October 2015.  Pointknown, with its partners, created an exterior HDLS (High Definition Laser Scan) and Revit model of the exterior as well as the elevator lobby, and stair cores.  After creating the base Revit model the Pointknown Team utilized PKNail Pro , a point to point, direct to Revit, reality capture tool, to document interior wall partitioning, doors, and bathroom layouts.  Using the combined technologies helped us tremendously in speed and accuracy, and the database functionality of Revit allowed us to assign spaces/offices and run space calculations a lot easier than polylining spaces.  We were then able to produce formatted documents, floor plans, sections, space calculations for the owners / investors and delivered the model for the designers.

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PEA_Academy_Arts_Building

Phillips Exeter Academy and Arts Building

In my experience through a dozen plus years of the topic, these issues are best discussed and defined at the outset whether you’re outsourcing the work or doing it yourself.

  1.  What is the initial use of the model?

Start with a MVM  (Minimal Viable Model ), volumetrically correct and add detail from there.  Interior designers will need different detail than someone implementing CAFM tools, then will an architect adding an addition or an adaptive reuse project.  Custom windows, Wall Types, Beams, Fire Protection, Molding, etc. can all be added later so don’t pay for what you don’t need.

 

  1.  What technology is being deployed?

There are a variety of technologies out there, what are you or your vendor using?  How much experience do they have.  Do not be afraid to ask for or create a technology road map and ask for demonstrations, experience, and documentation of previous projects.   Technology and data capture can be and should be quite different for a 1000 rooms in a hotel vs. a theatre with non-orthogonal walls, balconies, and lots of trim detail.  Will it be HDLS (HIgh Def laser Scanning),  PPLT (Point to Point Laser Technology or P2P), Photogrammetry, Hand measuring and graph paper? There are price considerations to be had with each.

 

  1.  Architectural Intent?

Hard to believe this makes into the top 3, however, you need to discuss how you want to deal with non-conforming issues.  For example, less than a .3 degree deflection of a wall in plan view will cause +6” over 100 feet.  Who cares?  Do you?  It’s important.  As non-ortho connections in Revit cause model errors, something in new construction Revit wants you to avoid, however when modeling existing not every building was built perfectly square.  Would you rather see the building modeled with regards to architectural intent and have any non conforming issues annotated or do you want it modeled as it exists.  
There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace with regards to laser scanning and modeling existing conditions as there are no standards in place, nor certifying boards for anyone doing this work so until that day happens the onus is on the consumer to ask the questions and help manage the process to get the model they need.

Jim

Co- Founder / CEO Pointknown

Pointknown provides services and software for documenting existing buildings in Revit.  We also offer consulting to set up your own projects through enabling technology or project management.

 

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Pointknown / IR captured and modeled the Saks 5th Avenue Flagship building over the summer.  The building, located at 611 5th Ave NYC,   was just refinanced and according to the New York Times valued at $3.7 billion dollars. That’s over $1 billion more than Royal Hudson paid for the entire company last year.   The survey and modeling teams used a variety of technologies including LIDAR,  its own PKNail Pro and Revit from Autodesk worked throughout the night so not to  disturb its clientele and associates.  Working through Rob Siegel, now the Design Director at Gensler Pointknown / IR created a full exterior model, shell and cores including the mechanical penthouses.  Said Rob, “This is one of the best models we’ve ever seen.”

Pointknown and its sister company IR (interioreview) creates software for the capture and modeling of existing buildings, and provides the same as  a service.  It uses best in class technologies, whether off the shelf or custom software it designs itself.  The companies are entrusted with documenting buildings like Saks 5th Avenue,  the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans , academic building on UMass and Phillips Exeter campuses to your home.  This December it will be continuing its work as part of the Phase III renovation of the Chicago Hilton.  What can we help you with?

*******

Pointknown

support@pointknown.com

617.575.2222

SFA NYC

 

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UMass Old Chapel 3 Project : UMass Old Chapel
Location : Amherst, MA (University of Massachusetts)
Client : Finegold Alexander
Summary:

Interioreview / PointKnown was hired to survey/document and create an Architectural Revit model using generic components to accurate represent the building.  Accurately locate and model interior timbers, chapel and steeple.  Include all classrooms and offices.

Technology:  

Hardware :   Faro 330 :  Disto D8

Software:  Autodesk Revit : PointKnown PKNail Pro

Process:

Scan and register pointcloud for exterior, chapel and timbers.  Import pointcloud to Revit model architectural objects included in the scan. Measure and Build direct to Revit using PKNail Pro, extents of building footprint for quality control to compare with pointcloud data, and measure and model all rooms, offices, and classrooms.  Include Kitchen and Bathroom layouts as they occur through out the building using PKNail Pro to place all wall based objects (Toilets, Urinals, Sinks..)

PointKnown Captures Existing Buildings

Software / Services / Consulting

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gren buildingsThere seems to be little known about what’s going on at this century’s Xerox PARC, Google X and it’s Project Genie, but a small amount of information was unveiled at ArchDaily.  Google’s commitment to sustainability is apparently going to reach into the AEC industry and possibly trample into Autodesk’s campsite.  While other software firms are hampered by their own internal growth and sales and what they can commit to marketing, (Autodesk wins there) and R & D.  The folks at google, know no such bounds.  The spinoff Vannevar Technology (which sounds suspiciously close to Vandelay Industries,) is working on creating…..who knows. Their website states “Reimagining building design for a more sustainable future.” Which is about as exciting as the 5th slide in a time share deck. However, google has the clout and cash in what can be a very stubborn, hesitant to change,” what are you talking to me ” culture.  Typically the principals in architecture firms don’t care about technology, they have minions to get it done so why invest in software or new tech when my current pricing, business structure, ROI formulas are working and set in stone, plus I don’t like business that much I like designing building so the less I get involved the better.  Engineers will analyze and without comparable metrics to analyze, then…paralyze. Construction managers will embrace tech if it saves the time, which equals money, so time and money but they have to live with the consequences, so embracing new tech….tough crowd.  Which is far from saying that things can’t be done better.

The small bit of copy on the web site rightly touts that buildings, yes buildings produce the most greenhouse gases, 40%, so what is google going to do about it?  Systems, software, construction methods, materials, vertically integrate and go borg on the industry.  My guess is whatever they do, they will be building some buildings with Vannevar Tech for proof of concept and case studies.  My guess it’s got be some integrated design and FM system to produce tangible CO2 / greenhouse gas savings, plus energy savings.  Some have guessed it might be a SketchUp on steroids, but then why did they sell it to Trimble. And who cares about the design process, what part of that is the current lifecycle of a building, very little, I’d want to own the building for most its life, it’s operating life, and want to own the management of it, and the data.  There ya go, so then, IBM and Maixmo, meet google, you might know them.  These are the crazy kids floating balloons for internet access. loon

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