What is a 3D laser survey?

Mark Johnson
Survey Video by Mark Johnson National Accounts Manager 04/10/2022

Watch our video to discover how our laser scanning process produces a point cloud which can be turned into a 3D model to help plan and record changes to the built environment.


3D laser surveys explained

A laser scanning survey is a fast and accurate way of capturing the spatial detail of an existing building or other structure.

The 3D laser scanning process uses the latest high-definition laser scanner to capture precise geometric data within the built environment – both exterior and interior. This forms a point cloud which can then be turned into a 3D model.

Architects, construction design teams and property developers can use this 3D model as a tool to experiment, plan and record changes to the environment and facilitate the BIM (Building Information Model) process.

Laser scanners use LIDAR technology

LIDAR stands for Light, Imaging, Detection And Ranging.

LIDAR technology captures large amounts of spatial data in a fraction of the time taken by more traditional surveying methods.

3D laser scanners use LIDAR technology to emit a beam of energy and calculate the x, y and z coordinates for each point of physical contact.

In a matter of seconds, a 3D laser scanner can survey a building interior or exterior and capture the precise location of its features. This laser scanning data can then be used to create a 3D digital model or accurate 2D plans.

There are two types of laser scanner

Phase-based laser scanners send out a laser pulse and compare the phase wavelength shift between the returning pulse and a stored value to calculate the distance the beam has travelled.

Pulse-based (time of flight) scanners determine distances by calculating the time taken for the pulse to reach an object and return to the scanner.

3D Point Cloud Survey

What are the benefits of a point cloud survey?

Watch our video to discover how a point cloud survey can quickly gather precise geometric detail of a complex building or environment to bring the site to life and aid collaboration.

Watch video

Creating a 3D point cloud

Multiple scans from a 3D laser survey can be combined to create a point cloud.

A point cloud groups together the scanning data to create a highly accurate and comprehensive database from which a digital 3D model of the building can be created.

The point cloud data file can be quickly and easily shared among the design team so the laser survey can be manipulated on their desktops.

It is a visual record of the building from which 3D models and 2D plans can be created. This can include a ‘walk through’ model of the building and allows accurate dimensional measurements to be taken as required.

Architects and design teams can use the point cloud as a valuable reference tool throughout the duration of a project, removing the need for costly return visits to site.

Using laser scan data throughout the construction process

3D laser scanning is used as a pre-construction survey to confirm existing site conditions and as the basis for plans, models and records throughout a construction project.

Pre-construction, a 3D laser site survey is used to accurately record existing conditions within the building or built environment. The point cloud can be used to generate 3D models and 2D building plans to which proposed changes can be applied.

During construction, the design team can use 3D laser scans to check the progress of the building project against the intended design. Comparing site data with proposed footprints, elevations and sections is a critical part of the quality control process.

Post-construction, the project manager can verify that the physical building matches the proposed design. A further laser survey can result in an as-built model which can be passed to the facilities management team for use throughout the life of the building.

How can we help you?

We help architects, developers and building designers deliver better construction projects via a full range of laser surveying, point cloud and 3D modelling services