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Scan-to-BIM: Impacting Historical Structures, Buildings, & Urban Infrastructure

Posted by: | Posted on: May 23rd, 2016

The recently concluded Future BIM Implementation conference in Doha, Qatar, saw an interesting mix of speakers and subjects. The conference had lively talks ranging from the application of BIM on infrastructure projects such as the Doha Metro, to vivid discussions about implementing sustainability in our buildings right from the design stage; and the role of BIM as the great enabler formed the base for speakers elaborating upon these subjects. One of the subjects that didn’t get much of the spotlight at the conference was the increasingly greater role that Scan-to-BIM plays in preservation, renovation, restoration projects, as much as in urban planning and development projects.


As the scope of BIM has expanded since its advent, more and more typologies of built environments are now included in its realm. As an impact, smarter gadgets have assumed a more important role in enabling newer technologies & software to deliver on complex construction models. A growing number of building owners now require As-builts for residential, commercial, and industrial facilities, with the intent to ease repetitive maintenance tasks. It is not just the building owners who have use for Building Information Models made from laser scans though; urban planners, civic authorities, land surveyors, infrastructure developers, and many more such disciplines have use for laser scans and information-rich models created from those scans.

Recently, Britain’s National Museum of the Royal Navy set about saving a much decorated and much-loved British warship with laser scanning. The HMS Victory is possibly the oldest commissioned warship in the world, and an icon reminiscent of Britain’s part in the Battle of Trafalgar, receiving about 400,000 visitors annually. Over the past 40 years, its structure has been under a growing threat of collapsing under its own weight. The museum undertook a two-year long, thorough laser scan of the outside and the insides of the ship to find a solution to the deteriorating situation. Engineers were able to study the ship’s structural model generated post-scan, and employ measures to save the ship’s structure, by putting 136 metal struts to support the deck that is gradually leaning back.

Jan Mikolajczyk

The Odense and Funen municipalities in Denmark have used laser surveys and information-rich models created from the point cloud data, to map the water supply lines, sewer wells, wire grids, and the buildings in the municipalities and the surrounding areas. This not only ensures supply of clean water to the residents, but also becomes a record for future construction and maintenance projects to make use of right from the design phase.


London’s Crossrail project is a living example of BIM at work since its inception. A highlight of the project is the 42 kilometers of new tunnels that were dug for the project, which will be named the Elizabeth Line, upon completion. Some of these tunnels pass within meters of existing ones. While it is a scary scenario to think of, it would not have been possible without accurate survey data.

Today, Crossrail integrates the information developed from over 25 main design contracts, 30 advanced works contracts and over 60 logistics and main works construction contracts, all of which have an extraordinary number of interlinked interfaces within the complex urban environment of London.2

These projects exemplify the extent to which BIM is now pervading our surroundings and most certainly playing a decisive role in shaping the future of our cities, with scan-to-BIM helping preserve our heritage and shaping our future.

Bhushan Avsatthi
About the Author: Bhushan Avsatthi is a BIM expert, a certified Sustainable Building advisor, and an associate director with more than 15 years of industry experience. He leads a team of architects, Structural & MEP engineers, LEED consultants and energy modelers. Bhushan strives to make his organization a cohesive resource for sustainable building design. He regularly participates in green initiatives like tree plantations, and promotes using bicycles for everyday commute.

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