By Elaine Ball

LiDAR is fast becoming a vital technology for construction companies all over the world. This technology can streamline projects by improving the productivity of teams and processes. However, there are still some teams and construction companies that have never used LiDAR before, and in some cases, even those who are making use of the technology aren’t actually making the most of their survey data.

Here’s everything you need to know about LiDAR in the construction world, from what it is to how teams can make the most of it.

What Is LiDAR?

LiDAR, or Light Detection And Ranging, is a surveying method that uses laser light pulses to collect “points” (3D coordinates) from the earth’s surface. Millions of these points are collected and together, they form a point cloud. This point cloud can be used to generate a digital 3D model of the scanned environment.

This digital representation of the surveyed area can be used to analyse the landscape and make plans for construction or renovation work.

The Benefits of Using LiDAR for Construction

Accurately Predict Project Costs

When using LiDAR to survey building sites, point cloud data software can be used to predict project costs. Before carrying out a LiDAR survey, point cloud software can help predict how much the project will cost to complete. With a prediction of project costs, project managers can more accurately plan the overall project budget.

Once LiDAR systems have been used to survey building sites, this data can then be used to calculate a budget for the overall project. Point cloud data analysis can give construction teams a better idea of what tools, materials, and machinery will be needed to complete the build. With this knowledge, there’s a reduced risk of unexpected costs arising at later stages.

Assess the Suitability of Building Sites

LiDAR surveys can gather data from all types of surfaces, from areas with existing buildings to sites covered in dense vegetation. The data collected during the survey can help teams learn more about the suitability of the site for construction projects.

For example, vegetation on building sites can be both a blessing and a curse. Construction companies may choose to build in areas where they can leverage vegetation to provide new builds with protection from high temperatures, glare, and erosion. On the other hand, dense vegetation or tree roots may be an obstacle for construction projects, driving up costs and lengthening the project timeline.

But by assessing LiDAR data with point cloud software, factors such as vegetation, slope gradient, and existing structures can be taken into account, and teams can quickly make decisions about whether or not the land is suitable for construction.

Identify the Need for Renovation

It’s not just new-build projects that LiDAR can be used for — renovation and knock-down-and-rebuild projects can also benefit from this technology. LiDAR data can depict small details, such as the condition of buildings and roads, so if a building or area is run-down, LiDAR surveys can help identify it.

One way LiDAR can identify the need for renovation is through wall monitoring. The survey data can be used to detect cracks and both vertical and lateral movements of building walls. If a building wall shows signs of movement, this is an indication of deformation or collapse, both of which pose a structural safety risk and will require renovation or reinforcement.

Easily Extract Building Footprints from LiDAR Data

If you use point cloud data processing software to assess and manage LiDAR data, you’ll be able to easily extract building footprints from the data. This can aid renovation or construction plans.

Outlining where structures already exist can provide construction teams with information about where there are existing utilities. It can also help with planning where to place water or sewer lines and identify where an easement is needed.

For knock-down-and-rebuild projects, building footprints are used to identify and record the scale of demolitions and the proximity of other structures.

In short, building footprints clearly outline the restrictions of plots and the dimensions of the space available to utilize, and these plans can be easily acquired with software that processes LiDAR data.

Unveil a Bare-Earth Model

Bare earth models are vital during the planning stage of the majority of construction projects. While LiDAR systems will gather information from existing structures and vegetation covering an area, it’s also possible to create a bare-earth model from the survey data.

By stripping back vegetation and existing structures to reveal the topography of the land, LiDAR can be used to assess terrain stability by taking into account slope gradients and the risk of landslides. This information can also be used to assess the risk of flooding in the proposed area.

Enable Easy Collaboration

Collaboration between engineers, project managers, and architects can often be a lengthy process. But LiDAR data can be stored using point cloud processing software, supporting collaborative efforts by giving the entire team access to necessary information.

Improved collaboration means contractors can be brought on board in the early stages of the project, and with teams working together throughout the planning process, productivity can be improved. Data can also be easily shared, limiting the risk of errors from miscommunication.

Enable Virtual Construction Simulation

By creating a 3D model of a scanned area, construction projects can be planned and even tested in the virtual world using LiDAR data and point cloud software. Teams can simulate stages of the build to test the practicality of designs and structures.

Safety risks, such as when buildings encroach onto public roads or railroads, can be quickly identified and located. Point cloud software can identify land boundaries and even move, such as clash detection by simulating vehicles through the 3D digital model.

Identify Non-Compliance with Regulations

LiDAR data, once transformed into a 3D digital model, can be assessed against building regulations and health and safety guidelines. For example, roads, floors, and sidewalks can be assessed against gradient regulations and the Department of Justice ADA accessibility guidelines.

The construction of new builds can be planned with accessibility requirements already identified and mapped out, and existing structures can be redesigned to become compliant with the Department of Justice’s regulations.

From helping teams ensure construction projects are completed efficiently and effectively, to reducing project costs and making it easier for construction companies to comply with regulations, the benefits of using LiDAR for construction projects are extensive. With the right laser scanning systems and point cloud processing software, teams can use point cloud data to their advantage and make the most of this technology.

Elaine Ball is a Geospatial Marketing Consultant and the Founder and CEO of Elaine Ball Ltd — a geospatial marketing consultancy. Elaine’s goal is to bring her marketing expertise to an industry that is incredibly technical. She has worked with many companies in the Geospatial industry to help them grow and become profitable, in some cases, even doubling sales. Today, Elaine works as a Sales and Marketing Director for TopoDOT, helping to promote the transportation industry’s most productive point cloud processing software globally.