Tools to Improve Construction Renovations

Before beginning a renovation project, it is critical to understand the existing conditions. Surveying technology will help with this assessment. Here are five tools to try.
By James Norris and Kelly Cone
June 1, 2018

The benefits of a renovation normally fall into these pots: saving money, faster build, unique architecture or unique landmark. All of these things equate to valuable real estate investment.

Owners can now get far more feasible reuse of existing buildings, which allows for a more sustainable approach to managing assets. However, renovation projects are full of many unknowns, making it potentially difficult to accurately budget and determine an existing asset’s true ROI.

Virtual building and construction, when used in the planning process, can significantly reduce project waste and provide owners with confidence before beginning actual design and construction. Savings can be locked in before construction starts and put back into the project. By maximizing limited resources, owners can do more with less.

Before beginning a project, it is critical to understand the existing conditions. Surveying technology will help with this assessment.

Laser Scanning

Laser scanning is useful for understanding the existing structure and above-ground surrounding areas. Facility owners should invest early in selective demolition to get the biggest bang from this tool. Fifty to 100 scans per day can be merged together into a dimensionally accurate 3D point cloud. These scans can be combined with photography and other reality capture sensors to create a complete visual archive.

This data can be used as a basis for a building information mode and, using tools like 3D modeling software, contractors can automatically extract most of the core building elements to rapidly get documentation of existing conditions. If there’s already a 3D model of the project, the scans can also be merged with the 3D architectural model and analyzed to compare the two to determine where the existing drawings and model differ from the real conditions in the field. The point cloud can also be used without conversion for clash detection and as a basis for estimating existing components.

Ground Penetrating Radar

Ground penetrating radar is used to locate existing underground utility lines’ approximate size and depth. An entire site can be scanned relatively efficiently for utilities and buried obstructions. The radar information can be merged into the project’s 3D model for coordination and clash detection. Once the project moves forward, the following design and construction technologies can help with project delivery.

Navisworks / BIM 360 Glue

These are tools for sharing and coordinating those models, which should start in design. Project problems decrease as information sharing increases. The results include faster schedules, lower cost and the ability to know project savings early on.

3D design models can be shared, imported, and exported between architect, consultants, contractors and subcontractors. These models are smart, understanding different building components and materials. The models can be used to efficiently create and coordinate with the subcontractors’ shop drawings. Clash detection is then solved during design rather than on the jobsite. As a result, elements fit to existing conditions, field labor cost is reduced and the team’s need to carry contingency is nearly eliminated.

Estimating Software

Estimating software allows preconstruction teams to gather accurate understanding of a project’s cost and quantities of materials. This estimating tool pulls quantities directly from the materials and dimensions in the model. If the model changes, the team can automatically get fast recalculations. This allows the owner and team to make better decisions by assessing more options.

Robotic Total Station

A robotic total station is used for more accurate field engineering. By taking layout coordinates directly from the model and pinpointing them in the field, field engineering becomes faster and less labor-intensive—resulting in cost savings. In addition to being more accurate, complicated design geometry is easy to put in place physically, which results in greater alignment with design intent.

by James Norris
James Norris is an advisor for BuiltTech Labs and an advocate for intuitive building design. James has experience with nearly every aspect of the construction space. He migrated from construction management to launch Beck’s scheduling department. Now, he runs the Virtual Building Group, comprised of four departments: 3D Coordination, BIM Support, VBG Services and Operational Technology. The Beck Group is an integrated architecture and construction firm that designs and constructs buildings by creating cross-discipline teams to achieve a more holistic building process.

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