Planning Made Easy: Design, Collaborate & Build with 3D Technology

Planning Made Easy: Design, Collaborate & Build with 3D Technology

Over the last decade, the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry has made incredible strides through the use of 3D technology. The net result of these new technologies has been to equip today’s designers and builders with new and innovative tools to visualize, model, collaborate, estimate, plan and even build. One set of these new applications is referred to as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) tools, which are used to visualize, analyze, and evaluate project performance. Building Information Modeling (BIM) integrates the information for multiple disciplines and project phases into a collaborative, multidimensional model. In this article, we look at 3 emerging tech trends poised to transform the AEC industry: 3D Laser Scanning, Cloud-Based Data Management and 3D Printing. 


© CyArk

© CyArk

Visualize: 3D Laser Scanning

The relatively new technology of 3D imaging and laser scanning is essentially the rapid capture of three-dimensional data using laser beam signals reflected from an object or surface. 3D laser scanning or “reality rapture” has immense potential for aiding the process of architectural design from the early stages of site documentation and conceptualization, to monitoring construction progress and verifying as-built accuracy. Aside from the obvious benefits of quickly and accurately creating detailed as-built drawing records, the data acquired through the process of laser scanning has continued value throughout the project life cycle. Scan to BIM services are becoming more popular as the need for intelligent 3D CAD models grows. Laser Scanning essentially captures a site’s shape and appearance, and converts those conditions into a cloud of data points that can be imported into a 3D BIM model. The laser scanning equipment can be costly, with the initial investment for a single scanner running up to $100,000. Many cutting edge AEC firms claim to be able to justify the upfront cost however, with the gains in efficiency on projects and additional consulting fees. In addition, 3D laser scanning has already proved indispensable for pre-existing architecture and historical preservation. The CyArk 500 Challenge is California-based non-profit CyArk's ambitious goal to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites within the next five years. CyArk and its partners are on a mission to save these cultural heritage sites digitally before more are ravaged by war, terrorism, arson, urban sprawl, climate change, earthquakes, floods, and other threats. CyArk has already completed 40 projects toward its ambitious goal of 500. These sites, called the Exemplar Projects, include Pompeii, Babylon, Mt. Rushmore, pictured above, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Titanic, the Sydney Opera House, and, most recently, the Tower of London. Anyone connected to the Internet via IE can click into CyArk’s 3D models and play. High-resolution photographs of each heritage site provide color information for the models, so the 3D images online look true-to-life, and their size can be manipulated without losing detail.

© Smallbones

© Smallbones

Collaborate: Cloud-Based Data Management

Cloud-based collaboration continues to take over functions that once ate up hard drive space on a designer or BIM/VDC manager’s computer, allowing building team members to dynamically interact with centralized 3D models. For example, Autodesk 360 is a cloud-based project collaboration tool that gives AEC industry professionals access to storage, a collaboration workspace, and cloud services to help them dramatically improve the way they design, visualize, simulate, and share their work with others anytime, anywhere. Pictured above, the University of Delaware’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab (ISE Lab)— located in Newark, Delaware, and designed by Maryland–based Ayers Saint Gross. Thirteen Revit design models—all hosted in the cloud—were developed for this world-class 194,000-square-foot facility, helping the integrated project team better understand how the building's systems interrelate. The models were constantly available to both the Construction Management team and the product fabricators via the project cloud, and were used for takeoffs, coordination, scheduling, and site layouts. They also helped the team explore ways in which the forms and materials of the campus’ traditional Georgian architecture could coexist with contemporary technology. The open file network allowed for easier sharing and adjusting of the construction schedule in real time, with modeled elements linked to the project’s timeline. Thanks in large part to modern project delivery techniques and enhanced communication between team members, the project finished a full 60 days ahead of schedule. The project was recently awarded the 2014 Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Innovation Award for Delivery Process Excellence. The Delivery Process Excellence Award is given to teams which demonstrated exceptional use of the collaborative potential of BIM to meet project goals. The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) celebrates the use of BIM to enhance a project’s design, construction, and performance.

© Andy Roberts

© Andy Roberts

Build: 3D Printing

What if you could assemble a beautiful, low energy home using free modeling software and a 3D printer? That’s the intriguing idea behind Eric Schimelpfening‘s WikiHouse – a home designed entirely in SketchUp that can be downloaded by anyone, customized to fit the user’s needs and sent to a 3D printer. The components are then snapped together using less than 100 screws to make rooms that can be rearranged as easily as you would rearrange furniture. WikiHouse 4.0, pictured above, was a prototype built for London Design Festival and Design Junction’s West End Design Quarter in summer 2014. The project was a collaboration between ARUP, The Building Centre, Momentum Engineering and 00 to showcase the world’s first open source, digitally manufactured, two storey home. The prototype was built by a truly amazing team of mallet-wielding volunteers over just ten days. The assembly was described as ‘slightly more complex than an Ikea project.’ At the end of the festival, 4.0 was carefully disassembled and sent by truck to its new home in Liverpool, England, with Friends of the Flyover. The group has plans to rebuild WikiHouse 4.0 as part of an urban regeneration project which will transform a disused overpass- called a flyover in the UK - into a High Line-like community pedestrian and cycle-friendly promenade in the sky. 4.0 was an important milestone because it showed proof of concept for WikiHouse as a construction system for housing. The project also expanded into other systems including mechanical and electrical. For example, Open MVHR, an open-source heat exchanger designed by Arup and built from 3D printed parts and recycled aluminum cans, was incorporated in the project to circulate warm air through the rooms.


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