The Ultimate Guide: Scan to BIM

Ultimate Guide to Scan to BIM_Article by United-BIM

What is Scan to BIM?

Scan to BIM is a practice of creating a digital representation of existing infrastructure with its physical and functional characteristics. It captures a 3D scan and then converts it into a 3D BIM model.

In the field of construction, laser scanning was initially used in the 1990s for designing and construction purposes. It is quickly becoming a staple practice for capturing the existing building infrastructure for all the AEC professionals worldwide. Let’s understand how the process of Scan to BIM functions and its application in this technology-driven industry.

Point Cloud Scan to BIM Model_Architectural Model_Resort Project, Aruba_United-BIM

How Does Scan to BIM Process Work?

The entire Scan to BIM process can be divided into four stages:

  1. Identification of information requirements
  2. Scan planning
  3. Scanning
  4. 3D modeling

Let’s understand in detail about the whole Scan to BIM process and what all goes inside before we have our As-built model.

Scan to BIM Process Workflow by United-BIM

1. Information Requirements for BIM Applications

Before we jump into the process of Scan to BIM, it is crucial to determine the requirements for the created model/drawings. It is essential to identify the level of detail of your model because higher modeling accuracy improves the reliability of the as-built BIM for the intended application. However, the higher the level of detail, the higher is the cost. Hence a trade-off must be made between cost and data density. In this stage, we identify the following information,

2. Scan Planning

Scan planning is setting parameters before the acquisition of a scan. It is important because, in today’s world, it is difficult to find existing BIM for buildings. Hence, the optimization of scanning parameters can be beneficial. It includes identifying all the necessary attributes for scanning. Few types of parameters are listed below:

  • Accuracy
  • Space Resolution
  • Coverage
  • Other attributes like location, angular resolution, etc.

3. Scanning – Capturing the Reality

Scan to BIM functions with the help of a 3D laser scanner, which collects the data with high speed and precision. The device has an eye-safe laser rotating at high-speed. It is generally placed on the tripod at the site, and as and when the laser beam hits any solid surface, its position is recorded as coordinates known as “points”. The cluster of these points is mapped together, representing a highly accurate digital picture. Once all the points are gathered, the scanner will colorize it to create a 3D map of the site with multiple viewpoints, referred to as point cloud scan.

The 3D laser scanner can capture the exterior and the interior structure, which will also include concealed mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection installations. The scanned data is then translated in the form of a 3D model using Revit software.

Here are a few of the famous scanning tools companies:

Also, the scanning process can be executed in various ways like:

  • 360-Degree Scans
  • Time-of-Flight Scans – It measures the distance between the horizontal and vertical angles for every position so that the scanner head must occupy all the grid positions for every scan.
  • Phase-Based Scans – The only difference is that the scanner measures the phase shift of the returning laser energy to calculate distances.

4. 3D Modeling - As-Built, Ready for the New-Build

The next and final stage of the scan to BIM process is to convert the acquired Point Cloud Scan into a 3D BIM model with the as-built condition of the existing building. This process is narrowed down into two aspects:

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Varied Applications of Scan to BIM

The motive behind applying a Scan to BIM is to capture the actual as-built conditions of the building. BIM helps in serving knowledge repository that generates as well as coordinates building facilities throughout the lifecycle. Let’s touch upon how Scan to BIM can be beneficial at different stages of the construction projects.

Phase I: Design

In the design phase, the as-built BIM model of the construction site terrain and the surrounding buildings and environment enable the designers to understand the site conditions better and to make better decisions about the building design.

Phase II: Construction

In the construction phase, it widely represents all the on-site construction works that are going on. It identifies any kind of discrepancies between the as-built BIM model and an as-designed BIM model, which is further compared to the tolerance values specified in the relevant codes and regulations. In the construction phase, there are different aspects like:

  • QA/AC: The BIM model covers all the prefabricated components that are all processed for quality assurance/quality control.
  • Progress Tracking: By scanning the on-site construction works at a certain project milestone, the as-built BIM models are created and compared to the as-designed 4D BIM models containing project schedule information.
  • Virtual Installation: With accurate as-built BIM models of construction, virtual installation and assemblies have become possible with the help of a scan to BIM. Scan-to-BIM can be adopted to simulate the installation and assembly process in a virtual environment. This will identify any potential problem or difficulty before the actual installation, known as clashes, leading to a significant time and cost savings.
  • Safety Management: The Scan to BIM model has the potential to enhance construction safety management as it identifies all the safety hazards and suggests measures to be taken to ensure project’s complete safety.
  • Digital Reproduction: Scan to BIM helps in replacing thousands of drawings by providing a detailed 3D model on a digital platform. It also offers the ability to visualize the design and make necessary amendments to the design.

Phase III: Facility Management

  • Documentation: Documentation of complex geometrics and textures of the building is the most fundamental application of scan to BIM in this phase.
  • Building Performance Analysis: Building performance analysis: This includes functions like performance analysis, accessibility diagnosis, and structural analysis. Building performance analysis is carried out to study and improve the building’s performance regarding energy consumption, accessibility, and structural reliability.
  • FM Functionalities: Due to superior 3D visualization ability and rich and well-organized building information in BIM, multiple FM functionalities can be improved, such as operations and management, space management, renovation planning and execution, emergency management, and personnel training, and development.

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Benefits of Scan to BIM - Why You Should Invest In It?

Key benefits of Scan to BIM are:

  1. The design derived from Scan to BIM is more reliable and of assured quality.
  2. It eliminates frequent visits to the sites. Thus, it increases time availability with the contractor to initiate the planning process and evaluate the project risk.
  3. It facilitates faster decision-making and project alteration.
  4. Using BIM at every building process leads to better sustainability in the project.
  5. Sourcing 3D model definitely comes at a cost, but when we compare it with the traditional 2D survey, it results in significant savings.
  6. Scan to BIM facilitates transparency, better communication, and foster collaboration.
  7. Data collaboration and coordination can be done swiftly.


Scan to BIM technology is vastly used to capture the functional and physical condition of the site or space with the use of 3D laser scanning device and then create a digital representation of it. The process works in four phases, where firstly all the requirements are identified for the scan to BIM, then constructive planning before the scan takes place, after acquiring the scan, it is processed into a 3D model. After conducting the scan, it is processed into a 3D model. Scan to BIM is vastly used by all the stakeholders in the construction industry as it saves a lot of time and cost of the project. It also provides a platform to see real-time changes & visualize the site resulting in increased efficiency.

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