Ethan Choun knows how much time a jobsite walk can steal from a project.
The project manager for Menlo Park, California-based Novo Construction ticks off a laundry list of each minute-snatching step: Getting to and going through the jobsite itself; opening ceiling tiles to look at mechanical spaces once you're there; taking multitudes of pictures and uploading those shots; and finally, comparing what you saw to original plans, all while tracking a constantly changing project in progress.
But, in the five years since he’s started using reality capture tech that creates an as-built model of the jobsite, Choun has seen the time it takes cut down drastically.
“It’s changing the game. It’s become a lot more simple,” Choun said.
Novo isn’t the only company that’s making use of the technology. For example, North Reading, Massachusetts-based contractor Columbia Construction recently used reality capture software to align 60,000 feet of pipe on a short timetable.
At Novo Construction, Choun uses OpenSpace, a program that compares image captures from jobsites to plans supplied by contractors.
According to OpenSpace's website, the information-gathering phase of the jobsite walk is relatively straightforward. A contractor uses a camera — typically a 360-degree device mounted on a hardhat — to record onsite progress during the walk. Once footage and pictures are uploaded to OpenSpace’s app, the software constructs a virtual environment from the images and compares it to the contractor’s original plans.
“It’s saved us a ton of time,” Choun told Construction Dive. Before adopting the technology, the biggest time drain came during the upload process, when he had to separate photos into different folders and check them for quality. With OpenSpace, he said, the photos map to jobsite plans automatically.
“You do your walk and then come back, upload it from your phone, and that's all it takes,” Choun said.
Part of the appeal of the technology is in its ability to be reused and re-appropriated for different tasks.
Choun, for example, mentioned a specific project — a two-story renovation in downtown Palo Alto, California, just shy of 20,000 square feet — where the job's superintendent had worked on the original build 12 years prior. The superintendent, Choun said, wished they had an as-built capture file from the first build to reference for the retrofit.
In the future, that may actually be the case, Choun said. That’s important for Novo, since it specializes in interior remodeling and tenant improvements.
"It's not uncommon, five or six years down the line, to do a remodel or refresh," Choun said. "If we do, now we can reference back to OpenSpace and see where everything was."
Novo will also use the technology for double-checking purposes, such as making sure that certain parts of the build were installed correctly.
The process is so easy, in fact, that Novo Construction has its collegiate summer interns run OpenSpace through the duration of their internship.
“It takes five minutes, we show them how to do it, and then they do that for the rest of the time they’re here,” Choun said.