How Reality Capture Is Boosting Construction Productivity

3 ways this technology is paying off.

Reality capture from devices such as drones, laser scanners and even smartphone cameras is producing a tsunami of real-time data on jobsites. The challenge is figuring out to how use all that data effectively to boost productivity.

Algorithms driven by artificial intelligence can transform data captured from multiple devices into a virtual model that can be used to track project process, identify areas where a project diverges from plans or pinpoint activities where costs can be trimmed.

The biggest construction companies are working with partners to use reality capture technology for those purposes and more. Based on the savings the big GCs are achieving, it’s likely just a matter of time before this tech goes mainstream.

Here are three ways reality capture is paying off.

Progress and quality control tracking

When Kaiser Permanente wanted to track progress on the construction of its Viewridge Medical Office Building project in San Diego, it contracted directly with Doxel, a California-based startup. Doxel monitored the site daily using autonomous devices equipped with HD cameras and laser scanners.

Doxel’s proprietary algorithms processed the visual information gathered about components to calculate installed product quantities. The company then compared those quantities to the budgeted value of the work. This data gave the project owner instant visibility into the amount of work completed and ongoing updates of the predicted cost at completion.

Doxel also used real-time detection to track data gathered on installed work against the BIM model to identify small errors as early as possible. Catching these issues in real-time allowed GC Hensel Phelps to reduce the potential cost of rework.

According to Doxel, automated progress tracking and quality inspection technology increased labor productivity 38 percent over the course of the project.

Identifying cost-savings opportunities

Chicago-based GC Clayco is using reality capture as a quality control measure on health insurance company Centene Corporation’s $800 million campus expansion in Clayton, Missouri.

Clayco’s virtual design and construction (VDC) team used laser scanning to verify existing conditions. For example, the team scanned the location of foundation wall embeds to ensure accurate placement of all steel beams, scanned the concrete core to gauge plumb, and scanned each section of the concrete wall to prevent deviation from design documents.

Clayco gains insight into deviations that might cause the need for rework by processing visual data with Faro Scene, which is software for scan data. But they also use the data to help them identify money-saving opportunities. For example, data on concrete flatness allows them to selectively apply an expensive topping compound rather than covering an entire 24,000-square-foot slab with it.

RELATED: 6 Ways 3D Laser Scanning Can Save Time and Money


Reducing time on-site

During the $18 million renovation of the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts at Wheaton College, Mortenson Construction’s VDC pros captured images of every room on an ongoing basis, including 50 360° photos that were updated weekly.

The 52,000-square-foot project had intense acoustical requirements. Each interior partition type included seven layers of drywall, isolated floors and flex conduits to rooms. The team knew it was important to document in-wall progress to ensure the delivered project met the requirements. The highly detailed photos saved time by eliminating the need for regular site visits from the remote acoustical theater consultant and owner.

Faster reality capture ahead

As more construction companies reap the benefits of reality capture, the technology is getting better. For example, Mortenson’s VDC pros previously used a 360-degree documentation method that required networking six cameras and yielded 20 photos after a three-hour setup. But on the 2017 project, the team switched to new software, HoloBuilder’s JobWalk app. According to HoloBuilder, the switch reduced the time spent on reality capture by 80 percent.

The better reality capture and data analysis tools become, the more we’re likely to see contractors of all sizes leveraging them to improving productivity.

Megan Headley has been writing about every aspect of the built environment since 2004. As owner of ClearStory Publications, LLC, Megan demonstrates her passion for helping contractors create more productive and safer jobsites, and more sustainable and successful projects.

Image Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky /

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