What is 3D Scanning?


When we present our work at Imerso, many times we assume most people have an idea of what 3D Scanning is. The most imaginative ones can probably make up something from the name alone, but we want everyone on the same page.

We’re writing this to share why our team is fascinated by this technology, and most of all, the tremendous opportunities it brings to the Property and Construction industry!


So, what is 3D Scanning?

This technique goes by many names — reality capture, 3D capture, high definition surveying — always meaning the same thing: Making a digital copy of real world spaces.

Unlike a photo or 360° panorama that creates 2D images, 3D Scanning produces what is known as a Point Cloud. This is literally a “cloud” of millions of individual points in 3D space, making up the captured scene.

Last year, we scanned the Norwegian parliament building in Oslo (the Storting) before meeting the Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Here’s the Point Cloud (Click on it and move around):

The 3D Advantage

The first thing you should notice is that this is an incredibly powerful Documentation method.
In other words, this is the fastest and most accurate way for documenting the As-is status of the captured space.

You can navigate the scene from any perspective - Get a top-down birds eye view, zoom into any particular detail, etc. You can take highly accurate measurements of everything captured in the scan with millimetre accuracy.
In essence, 3D Scanning brings the real-world into your computer.

  • High Speed - Users can capture thousands of square meters per day in full 3D, documenting every aspect of a property.

  • High Accuracy - Most 3D scanners produce results with millimetre accuracy - far exceeding manual or photo-based measurements.

  • Non-Intrusive - Can be performed without operational shut-down, and virtually no interference with field-workers or tenants.

  • It’s Safe - Can capture the details of hard-to-reach or dangerous locations, without the need for harnesses, lifts or cranes.

  • Captures Everything - Meaning you’ll never miss a measurement again, and can take a virtual visit to the site at any time.


Reaching Mainstream Adoption

Despite being around for decades, 3D Scanning has remained exclusive to deep pocket players mainly because of equipment costs and know-how barriers - both for creating the 3D data as well as to post-processing the results.

The development of 3D Scanning technology and Customer Value  (Source: BIM Task Group 2013)

The development of 3D Scanning technology and Customer Value (Source: BIM Task Group 2013)

The potential of this technology has not been fully realised yet, as only recently the prices and ease-of-use are reaching mainstream levels. Nonetheless, the tech has continued decreasing in cost and increasing in speed and user friendliness - already been put to a variety of uses in multiple industries - We’ll write a cool post on this soon!

For now, let’s talk about Property Development, since it is no surprise that this is where the technology has found most use-cases


Uses across the Building Life-Cycle

The Planning & Design Phase has been the most traditional application area for 3D Scanning.


It allows capturing accurate As-is status of older buildings (reducing risk where available documentation is unreliable or non-existent), or for capturing streets, facades, or wide terrains that are difficult to document with manual or photo-based methods.

The resulting scans are then imported into a 3D Modelling software, thus providing the basis for planning and design with confidence.

More recently, the growing adoption of BIM methods has boosted the use of 3D scanning, as it creates a strong foundation for BIM modelling and improving team coordination.

This is an important use case, but far from the only interesting application for 3D scanning.


Before Imerso came along to automate 3D Scanning workflows, this tech had been sparsely used in the Construction Phase due to its associated equipment and expertise costs.


3D Scanning across the different construction phases provides massive advantages over traditional status and progress inspections, as well as vastly improved abilities for Quality Control reporting.

We’ll write a post dedicated to this topic soon!

For now, consider the cost of USD 538 Bn attributed to delays and mistakes in construction projects globally just last year, that could be avoided with better documentation and inspection methods!


We reckon that building Operations and Maintenance is the phase where 3D Scanning has been used the least, due to the same barriers described above.


We’ve learned that it provides property owners with much higher ability to track changes and modifications on their assets, as well as fostering collaboration with partners and suppliers (eg. sharing a 3D Scan of a specific floor with a group of architecture firms, to accelerate the submission of design proposals).

Most importantly, we’ve found that the lack of access to reliable As-Built documentation costs property owners over 14 nok (ca. USD 2) per square meter under management each year.¹

Customer Value

It is difficult to put a value on something as essential as accurate documentation.
What is the value of better Quality Control?

  • Is it the reduced time and labor costs of inspecting project status?

  • Is it the increased productivity of your teams and partners?

  • Is it the avoided delays and unnecessary costs from early detection of deviations?

  • Is it the fewer on-site visits and in-person meetings?

  • Is it the avoided costs of disagreements and legal disputes?

That is still a narrow view of this technology: the true value is the entire new strategy it opens for managing property across its life-cycle, that simply had not been available so far. It allows wide range of opportunities for building owners, project managers and engineers to bring Reality data into their workflows. Moreover, you cannot get closer to a Digital Twin than literally having a virtual replica of your entire building portfolio at your fingertips, onto which to append any type of relevant information.

Contact us to learn how to get your teams started with using 3D scanning!