If there’s one thing that every level of government – from federal government, to state government to municipal government – does, it’s build things. Look around your town or city, and you’ll see thousands of examples– from the road you drove to work on, to the parks and post offices you walked past on your lunch break.
Whether it’s a new road or overpass, or the renovation of an existing building on a state university campus, there is nothing that the government may have to build that isn’t first designed with today’s advanced digital design solutions. And there isn’t a single design and construction project that wouldn’t benefit from existing conditions modeling.
Let’s take a look at what existing conditions modeling is, how it has evolved and what it can do for any government construction project.
What it does and why it matters
Let’s say you decide to build an extension or addition onto your house. The house already exists. It was designed and built to a set of specifications, and anything that you decide to do to change the house will impact those specifications. Decide to take out a wall? It may be there because it’s supporting the roof. Decide to add another floor? Your foundation may not have been built to support the extra weight.
Before anything can be done to an existing structure, it’s essential to know everything about that structure, so that smart, informed decisions can be made. This is one use case for existing conditions modeling – identifying all of the essential and important information about an existing structure so that any changes or additions to it can be done in a way that doesn’t create more headaches – and blown budgets – in the future.
But I’m doing you a disservice if I make it sound like only renovations or additions to existing structures could benefit from existing conditions modeling. That’s because even new projects where nothing already exists can benefit, as well.
For example, say a new road or a new building is going to be designed and constructed in a place where nothing currently exists, there are still conditions that impact that spot and could influence the design and construction. Grading issues. Water or flooding issues. All of these conditions can be taken into account with existing condition modeling, and that can save a significant amount of time and multiple headaches later during the construction process.
Ultimately, anytime the government is constructing anything – whether that is a renovation of an existing government building or the construction of a new highway where one didn’t exist before, it’s essential to know what the conditions are that will impact and influence that build as early in the process as possible, so that there are no surprises later. That’s the benefit that existing conditions modeling delivers – it gives designers and builders the information that they need up front and in advance so they can make the right decisions.
Now, the concept of knowing and understanding existing conditions in advance of a design and construction project isn’t a new one. But what is new are the tools that are being employed to make this process easier, cheaper and faster.
The evolution of existing conditions modeling
In the past, getting a real picture of the conditions at a construction site took engineers and other professionals traveling to the physical site and collecting as much data as possible. Thanks to new solutions that have entered the marketplace, that process is becoming a thing of the past.
Today’s advanced Scan-to-BIM solutions are making it so that data about existing conditions and existing structures can be aggregated from multiple places to give design and construction professionals the models and information that they need in a much faster, much less hands-on manner. This data can include LiDAR scanner data, information from photographs, overhead satellite imagery and even images taken from the sky by drones with HD cameras.
Compiling all of this data and utilizing today’s advanced digital design solutions, design professionals can develop 3D models and visualize the conditions in which they’re going to be working. As new data is identified, models can then be updated and designs quickly and efficiently changed to address the changing conditions.
Being able to quickly and effectively incorporate and utilize data generated from multiple sources can be of huge benefit to these projects.
Let’s say someone was designing a project using existing data that was already on file. They could miss or fail to take into account anything that was added or that changed from the time that data was collected. Or, say they utilize just one or two different sources of data to help guide their existing conditions modeling efforts. If that data or source of data missed something, or couldn’t see something, that factor could be left out of the resulting models and not taken into account during the design process.
Being able to aggregate multiple disparate types of data, easily pull them into models and then quickly shift designs and plans to account for changing conditions ensures that all models and their resulting designs are ready for construction and that no surprises await.
If you’d like to see this in action, check out the following video from digital design software provider, Autodesk, about what Scan-to-BIM solutions can do: