The Limitless Possibilities of Geospatial Mapping

When it comes to project design, management, and implementation, planning for the future does not need to be a daunting task. Leaders can think forward successfully if the right tools are selected from the start to appropriately plan for project budget and duration. The challenge, however, is trying to maintain the innovation-focused spirit many federal projects require in the midst of the uncertainty.

Project planning with innovation may sound like a vague idea, but it’s as simple as re-purposing new technology to solve long-standing problems. Across the public sector, many departments and agencies are already successfully employing the tenets of innovation-based planning and are leading the way to establish the best practices of project innovation.

Innovation-based planning is a particularly powerful methodology for federal infrastructure projects. With reality capture solutions- that is software that allows the capture, computer modeling, and subsequent visualization, simulation, and analysis of a structure –many maintenance and repair departments across government get the insight they need to make more informed and accurate building and design decisions with the virtual data before breaking any ground. For example, a laser scanner can be used with integrated GPS to “map-out” a building, both inside and out. The data collection phase is drastically shorter in duration with reality capture solutions; and this shorter collection time in turn drives total project costs down. This extremely useful and rapidly evolving technology has become widely and readily available to public sector users only in the past few years. But its implementation has been great – reality capture has already been used on projects ranging from the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel renovations to the U.S. National Park Service studying a sunken WWII battleship still under water.

Even after all the appropriate tools are selected, the impact of these three important vectors on the project planning equation must be considered.

  • Operation and Maintenance Plan— The crucial first step for a federal infrastructure project is to create an operation and maintenance plan. Similar to what you get during a doctor’s physical, you’re measuring for health and essentially building a plan for long term success. In today’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul projects, a standard blueprint is no longer sufficient for building mapping; project managers should build a simulated 360 degree, realistic model of the structure in order to precisely measure, predict, and evaluate end goals. In the case of the USAF Academy Cadet Chapel, without the 3D model created by laser scanners and unmanned aerial vehicles, the rehabilitation team would not have identified the many cracks in the building’s foundation and would not have known to establish a method to measure change in the foundation over time.
  • Sustainability— These baselines derived from reality capture can also be used to estimate change in a building’s energy efficiency over time. With the right tools, project managers, engineers, and designers can come together to optimize project sustainability– such as how AC system positioning could be altered to save costs. And with sustainability being one of the primary measures of a project’s overall success, small changes like window positioning, glass type, and HVAC location can make monumental changes in future building costs. 3D modeling based on reality capture data can also help to answer “what if” environmental impact questions associated with building projects. For example, the 3D model created of ancient Easter Island showed that new development plans would impact historical sites and resources on the island. A project plan must be sustainable over time and mitigate environmental risks in order to move forward into the development phase.
  • Time and Cost— As reality capture technology continues to develop to include 4D and 5D modeling aspects which go beyond static planning, time and cost become a larger part of the design equation. Time to construct is one of the biggest issues when it comes to making sound design choices. Seeing the effects of time virtually provides enormous value when applied to the real world. To be truly innovative, you have to look ahead and anticipate what’s coming. With the right technology, it’s now possible to see the effects of time and cost before the construction team even becomes a part of the picture.

To take a more in-depth look at project innovation and see further examples of successful federal projects, check out this Autodesk and Carahsoft five-part course.

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