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Modern technology and changing approaches to building surveying

Modern technology is changing the way we work, live, transact, and communicate, and we are standing on the brink of a new industrial revolution. Although the RICS has been operating for many years and the principles of building surveying are deep-rooted, recent technological developments are starting to change the shape of the industry.

The laser scanner, which was released more than 25 years ago, was the first technological advancement to spark a change in the profession. However, in the last 24 months new technology has gained pace, with the latest digital innovations being used to drastically improve quality, predictability, and efficiency.

These rapid improvements have significantly improved many aspects of building surveying, from operational and capital expenditure to improved energy performance. This article will consider some of the most notable advances in technology, with examples of how they have been used within technical assessments throughout the UK and Europe.

Laser scanning and 3D modelling for design

Over the last few years, surveyors’ tools have changed drastically, with a great example being 3D laser scanners. These high-speed scanners allow surveyors to quickly complete accurate measured surveys with comprehensive levels of data recorded.

We are able to take advantage of high dynamic time of flight measurements, to assist with everything from Point Cloud registration, visualisation and manipulation, through to standard floor plans and 3D modelling. The rapid advancement in efficiency allows surveyors to provide ultra-precise data with rapid results, which improves overall cost effectiveness.

Virtual site inspections

Globally, we have all been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the technology industry coming under significant pressure to provide new solutions to unexpected challenges. The need for building surveyors to provide a service whilst adhering to the latest government restrictions led to the rapid development of virtual site inspections.

Virtual building inspections are designed to ensure minimal individuals are needed onsite, with a single site-based surveyor connecting to the team back in the office via video communication. This collaborative way of working has ensured business continuity throughout the pandemic, with many techniques likely to be incorporated permanently.

When video site inspections are combined with other technological advancements such as cloud data storage, automatic cloud syncing, and geolocation for videos and images, I expect these advances will lead to significant changes going forward. Building surveyors will be able to connect with clients remotely, communicate via video with the office and offer an improved customer experience thanks to better speeds and accuracy.

Digital capture and image recognition software

Image recognition software offers many exciting opportunities to building surveyors, this is achieved by combining digital video capture with image recognition software to analyse data and pinpoint potential defects.

This technology is very much in its early stage of rollout; however, it is already successfully used in the Netherlands to detect road defects. In fact, the automated analysis of roads successfully detected more than 95% of defects, such as cracks, potholes, and repairs, even with shadows and objects blocking the view.

There are many obvious economic benefits to this technology, with inspectors no longer needed to analyse every stretch of road for issues. It is clear that there are many opportunities for crossover with this technology, with surveyors potentially able to analyse areas quickly and accurately.

Drone technology

Although there are strict rules surrounding the use of drones, the benefits relating to the role of building surveyors are huge. There are drones available which are capable of conducting visual and thermographic surveys of tall buildings and areas which may be hard or even dangerous to reach. Not only does this improve health and safety, but clients also benefit from faster reporting and accuracy.

For example, a drone with a thermographic camera would be capable of analysing and pinpointing potential performance issues within a building, such as water ingress beneath a roof and areas of heat loss with excellent accuracy.

Building Information Modelling

We live in a world where data is becoming increasingly important in our day to day lives, and the world of building surveying is no exception. I believe that a key area of development for the industry in coming years will be the way data is created, manipulated, and stored relating to our built environment.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is capable of considering all aspects of a buildings design, construction materials, the build, and the way it is managed. BIM can be combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions to create 3D modelling which contains data relating to every aspect of a building, with AI capable of combining human intelligence with machine learning to enhance the system and the data control.

This automated data handling will remove the requirement to record many construction details, with the surveyor’s time freed up to focus on finding issues and providing advice. This improved process optimisation will allow significant savings to be made, with surveyors able to concentrate effectively on the important aspects of their day-to-day work.

Innovative technology requires a traditional building surveyor

As an experienced building surveyor, I specialise in the technical assessment of real estate assets throughout Europe. I have a passion for improving the quality of life for everyone I reach, and I believe that modern technology is a key aspect in providing a sustainable approach to building surveying.

The industry has changed significantly since I first qualified as a building surveyor, and in recent years I have overseen the development of many new forms of technology within the workplace. Although many of the traditional ways of working have been digitised, the knowledge held by qualified and experienced building surveyors remains critical.

As a building surveyor, I see first-hand how our skillsets are evolving and changing in line with the latest innovations. Technology is allowing the industry to push through boundaries, improve efficiency, collaboration, and accuracy, and it is a very exciting time to be involved. If you would like to discuss any of these developments, please contact me for a more in-depth discussion.


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