Point Cloud to BIM for infrastructure project

Point Cloud to BIM for infrastructure project

Technology is changing the design and construction landscapes with some very useful and interesting innovations. Building Information Technology has been a key driver of change in the otherwise traditional construction industry. While talking of BIM for construction, the projects can be classified into two based on the context (i.e. the spatial context): Vertical (building) and Horizontal.

Horizontal BIM (or BIM for Infrastructure) is a terminology used in the construction industry for the application of virtual design and construction principles to non-building projects. These include roads and highways, public parks, rails, bridges, etc. Vertical BIM is used to differentiate virtual construction for buildings.

While the principles of BIM Modeling Services remain the same for vertical and horizontal projects, there is an inherent difference in the nature of the projects. Heavy Civil construction (horizontal construction) projects are:

  • Larger in geographical scale, often spanning across several miles
  • Characterized by the use of heavy moving equipment in the construction process e.g. concrete, asphalt, earthwork, etc.

Because of the challenges posed in carrying out horizontal projects, there are fewer sub-contractors involved in the project. Unlike vertical construction, most infrastructure projects are upgrades to the existing infrastructure and involve redesigning, extension, or carrying out structural changes to enhance the strength of the infrastructure. Hence, capturing as-built conditions are critical to the success of the project. While traditional means of capturing reality is very difficult for heavy construction projects due to difficult or unreachable terrain, the geographical span of the project, etc., using modern technology such as laser scanning to capture real-time data comes in handy.

Benefits of Point Cloud for Infrastructure projects

Scan to BIM Modeling is the process of converting registered point cloud data (generated through laser scanning of the physical buildings and infrastructure) to information-rich 3D models. There are several benefits of using laser scanning techniques to generate 3D scans which can then be converted to data-rich information models.

  • It saves surveying time. Taking on-site measurements in cases of heavy construction projects are not feasible as most of the projects are geographically spread across several miles. Several studies indicate that scanning saves approx. 40% of the cost, and effort.
  • In projects such as bridges, dams, etc., there are several areas that are unreachable to take physical measurements. It is possible to capture these un-approachable areas through scanning.
  • Accuracy is vital for any BIM project. Traditional methods never guaranteed precise results as a lot of it depended on the technical expertise and understanding of the surveyor. Accurate collection of data is one of the greatest advantages of point cloud scanning.

Capturing real-time data

There are several ways through which scanning can be done such as airborne, terrestrial, and mobile laser scanning. An appropriate method is selected based on the nature and requirement of the project. For e.g. for large projects that involve geographical area in miles such as large industrial plants, roads, and highways, rail facilities, etc. airborne laser scanning technique is used. This is done by mounting a scanner to an aircraft/drone and capturing the data from a high altitude. However, as compared to other scanning techniques, scans generated through airborne scanning capture elementary information and does not include detailed information to generate detailed models.

Terrestrial scanning is done by mounting laser scanners on tripods or hand-held to generate detailed surveys and are very useful in scanning bridges, sections of a dam, etc. where the geographical area to be covered is small and detailed scans are required. Mobile scanning is done by mounting the scanner on a moving vehicle and is to capture data for topographical surveys.

Point Cloud to BIM for Infrastructure Projects

The entire process of Point Cloud to BIM Modeling is carried out in three phases:

  1. Scanning phase: Raw data is collected in the form of point clouds through laser scanning carried out by any of the above-discussed
  2. Registration phase: Aligning the point cloud data consistently to generate a 3D point cloud model is called registration.
  3. BIM Conversion phase: Finally, the registered point clouds are used as a reference and 3D virtual construction models are created using tools like Revit, ArchiCAD, etc.

These information-rich and intelligent models are used for detailed building analysis, design assessment, and carrying out seamless collaboration within different teams of the project. This leads to better efficiency and overall cost saving on the project by reducing risks and errors; translating into better ROI for the project.


Newer technologies like Scan to BIM Modeling are poised to transform the construction industry in the coming years. Increasing global spotlight on climate change and increasing investor participation calls for newer and better structures that are environment-friendly and easy to manage throughout its lifecycle. Global infrastructure spending is estimated at $4.5 trillion a year and with these values, it is evident that the market for Point Cloud to BIM for infrastructure is bound to take-off.

Written By:
Divya Dave
Divya Dave is a Senior Manager with Tesla Outsourcing Services. An engineer and management graduate, she has been working with the outsourcing industry now for more than a decade. With a passion for writing, she writes on topics that provide an insight into CAD, BIM, and 3D Visualization services for the Architectural, Structural, and MEP disciplines. Her focus is to enable architects and engineering professionals in the AEC industry to adopt the right technology so as to increase their efficiency and profitability.

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