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9 SEP 2019

Introducing: Scan to BIM

Over the past 10 years, the use of Scan to BIM technology has revolutionised how we look at planning, rights to light, industrial development and heritage conservation. Creating a BIM model of an asset following a laser scan allows us to quickly and easily pinpoint the location of any hidden items, such as cables or pipes, and where any new mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems can be positioned and run through buildings.

When performed correctly, laser-scan data can provide an excellent historical record of a building’s features to an accuracy of 5mm. When it comes to preserving and conserving historical buildings, this helps enormously, as we can capture and record everything that exists within a building before any new work takes place, and we have something to compare the new work with.

Rooms for improvement

We were recently commissioned to scan 1,100 rooms of the Old War Office in London. Although it started out as a job simply to scan the room spacings, as the architects and interior designers came on board we were asked to provide further in-depth, detailed scanning of each room’s intricate wood panelling and cornice designs, to record the asset before work began.

The scan model is also being continually updated as work continues on site, with the surveyor re-scanning areas behind where there has been a strip out, giving the client an up-to-the-minute model of the entire asset. Over a three-year construction period, this could mean up to 5,000 scans.   

After a scan has been completed, clients don’t need complex and expensive software in order to view the BIM model of the project. User-friendly, online-viewing platforms such as Leica’s TruView Global, 3D Repo, or FARO’s Webshare allow clients to simply and clearly view a model, add mark-ups, take measurements, analyse what needs to stay or go, or request high-resolution 3D imagery of a particular object or facet of the building.

Even if the client team is in multiple locations around the country, everyone is able to log in to the BIM viewer online and discuss the intricacies of the model. This is an incredibly important aspect of where we are now with BIM – it’s crucial that every stakeholder can access and understand the model of the asset, rather than it being only understood by the BIM experts or technicians.

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Building information Modelling (BIM)
3D laser scanning is proving to be a crucial asset in providing accurate data on a building's features

Scan the horizon

Advancements in scanning and BIM technology are moving at a rapid pace. Scanners are now using higher degrees of automation and alignment, and becoming smaller, cheaper and more accessible. Indeed, not only is interoperability getting better every year, but there are also more online platforms that allow you to view any type of BIM model – providing everyone with a kind of universal access to BIM the industry did not have just five years ago.

Of course, there is also a question of obsolescence – a scan or a model from 10 years ago would have a lot less accurate data than one today, and BIM users in 2030 will probably say the same about our models. However, as long as we transparently include the historical changes in data and accuracy in every model, it will give the future user a clear context of how to be confident in the model they are using, even if it is more than a decade old.

Moreover, Scan to BIM is becoming crucial for high-quality asset management. This is when clients request a survey team to come in and scan an existing asset to create a BIM model to be used by a facilities management team, or for redesigning healthcare or education spaces to include new MEP systems fitted around the old ones.

Looking to the future, there are huge opportunities for surveyors to take ownership of real-world data capture and processing. Right now, so much data is being collected by non-surveyors – which is fine – but our industry needs to make sure that data is fit for purpose.

We must work to apply and raise good data standards, so it is used correctly and robustly, much like we help raise standards in any other part of the chartered surveying world.

RICS has recently developed data standards to ensure data used throughout the profession is fit for purpose. Find out more at

Raymond Murphy MRICS is chief executive of Murphy Surveys, Kilcullen, Republic of Ireland

  • This article originally appeared in the Talent issue of Modus (September 2019)