Technology-Driven While Staying Reality-Based
A small engineering firm is utilising reality capture and Bluebeam Revu to win big
Reality capture is a term going around in design and construction, but for many firms it often feels like just that: a term, untethered to actual practice. Or something that’s only for very large companies with massive budgets to spend on experimental technology. PACE Group LLC, in New Orleans, Louisiana, might have some objections to that characterization.
PACE is a small firm with a big passion for technology. Led by CEO Johann Palacios, P.E., and Lizz Babin, COO and technology advocate, the firm punches above their weight by making technology an equal partner in their venture. In fact, they make reality capture – the process of creating 3D models using photographs or laser scans – a part of their standard of care. “When somebody is choosing PACE Group for engineering, they know that a level of technology comes with that,” says Babin.
To scan the building in order to create the 3D model, most often PACE will use a Matterport camera first while doing the initial walk-through. Because the camera will create a model that captures cracks and provides accurate measurements, all parties don’t necessarily need to be present at walk-through. This saves time for subcontractors and consultants, and money for the owners, who won’t be billed for that time. Plus, Babin says, capturing all that data about a project before PACE begins their work has an added benefit: risk mitigation. If there’s a dispute over, say, a crack in the masonry wall or the slope of a foundation, PACE can simply review the footage from the Matterport and prove the presence, or absence, of the defect in question. The 3D model provides a level of transparency that just wasn’t available a few years ago. To really grasp how huge a leap this is, consider the rental car process: traditionally, when renting a car you walk around the vehicle with an employee of the rental agency, making note of dents and scratches. The process takes about two minutes and is far from thorough. But now imagine you had a 3D model of the car you could refer to when you get stuck with a bill for a $500 scratch.
So where does that 3D model go to live? How is it most usefully deployed? At PACE, the model is tied into Bluebeam Revu. As Babin explains, in Matterport using MatterTags “We can actually walk up to the crack, put a purple dot there, which is PACE’s colour, and then put a note about masonry repair.” Then they’ll go into Revu, “we’ll find it on the plan, we’ll make a cloud there and then we will put the same notes” and link that to that tag. This way a GC or subcontractor can actually see the problem in virtual reality and on a site plan. This allows for a better understanding of the needs of the project before they even get on site. To communicate with all the different parties, PACE creates a Studio Session, where people can see each other’s comments and a record is created of who said and did what, when. Bluebeam is “the hive,” as Babin calls it, of all the 3D modelling and laser scanning activity, since it’s the collaboration space that brings everybody, and all the data, together.
Since PACE began doing 3D modeling and laser scanning a few years ago, they’ve overcome an initial reluctance by some parties to participate in what was then seen as experimental technology. Now, in fact, it has helped them win jobs. Owners want a 3D model they can take on after project handover – say, to create a digital twin (more on that here) – and architects are eager to have access to the greater accuracy that laser scanning provides over traditional hand measuring. In New Orleans, “everything leans,” and lasers provide the exact angle that a wall is leaning, for example. PACE has made a name for themselves as being technology-driven while staying reality-based. “Everybody wants to save time and money,” Babin says. And so for PACE and their clients, it’s a no-brainer to utilise the most advanced technology on the market, to create, in the end, a better experience and a better product.