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How LiDAR is being used in Real Estate to map rooms and properties

Last Updated on 7th October 2022

How LiDAR is being used in Real Estate to map rooms and properties

3D scanning systems are increasingly being used in the real estate sector. The speed, accuracy and efficiency of LiDAR scanners for data collection is a game changer for mapping properties and creating floorplans. Here’s how, and why LiDAR is so useful for the property and real estate industry.

Can you measure a room with LiDAR?

Yes, LiDAR is used for distance measurement so it’s ideal for measuring a room, residential property or even larger, commercial property.

Real estate has been changing and adapting to new technology in recent years. The release of Google Street View highlighted the potential for 360o panoramic walkthroughs and early adopters began to use this for marketing purposes in real estate. This became particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the real estate sector relied on virtual tours that allowed prospective clients to view a property without actually visiting it. Other technologies have also been highlighted, such as LiDAR scanning for capturing accurate floorplans and 3D models.

As the real estate sector continues to embrace new technologies, older techniques of documenting properties, such as hand drawings or manual measurements, have become less common. LiDAR is one technology that has become more accessible and used to document properties, small and large.

How do I use LiDAR to map a room?

Mapping a room with LiDAR can be a quick and easy process, depending on the type of laser scanner that you use. With GeoSLAM’s handheld LiDAR scanners, you simply walk around the area you wish to capture whilst holding the device steady and then process the collected data in GeoSLAM Connect.

Real estate agents use LiDAR to accurately measure properties, create floorplans, as-built models, or BIM.

LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging and is often referred to as 3D scanning or laser scanning. LiDAR scanners use safe laser beams to emit thousands of laser pulses per second which bounce off objects and return to the scanner. The time it takes to return to the sensor is calculated and a single point is created. Repeating these processes hundreds of thousands of times per second creates an accurate 3D model of the scanned environment. LiDAR is a versatile solution, used in driverless cars and many industries across the globe to create accurate maps of the real world.

How long does it take to 3D scan a house?

The time it takes to scan a house will vary depending on the scanning method used and the size of the house. For example, GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon scanned an 8,000 sq/m property in approximately one hour, consisting of 4 merged scans.

There are different methods for capturing LiDAR scans of residential or commercial real estate properties. The most common are static scanning or Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM).

Static scanning

Historically surveyors would turn to Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS) to scan large areas, as TLS has an extremely high range and can capture dense point clouds. This is ideal for collecting much higher levels of detail, such as light switches or sprinklers.

TLS is static based, so requires expert surveyors to repeatedly move the tripod and scanner, around the area making sure there is overlap between the scans. This increases the time needed to capture a property, especially larger commercial spaces, and can be a disruptive process. Additionally, in most cases, such high levels of detail are not needed for creating floorplans or creating as-built models.

Laser Scanning with Backpack SLAM Solutions

SLAM solutions on a backpack are another method of LiDAR capture. They are quick and easy, which is beneficial for the real estate sector, where accurate results are needed fast. Additionally, you can use the hardware without extensive training, so it’s ideal for non-surveyors.

SLAM on a backpack is great for scanning larger areas, however, scanners fixed to a backpack are not as versatile when needing to map difficult-to-access spaces. Handheld SLAM solutions that can be added or removed from a backpack are ideal for data capture.

Laser Scanning with Handheld SLAM Solutions

Real estate agents across the globe are adopting handheld SLAM solutions for their projects due to their ease of use, high accuracy levels and versatility.

They deliver the level of accuracy needed for BIM models, as-builts or floorplans in a simple handheld solution. Additionally, they are versatile enough to attach to backpacks, UAVs or cars which widens their use even further.

Scans of commercial or residential properties can be captured in substantially less time than other scanning methods. For instance, GeoSLAM’s ZEB Revo was used to scan a 20,000sq. ft residence in 2.5 hours that was made up of 2 merged scans. The real estate sector is benefitting from handheld solutions because they are faster and require the user to spend less time at a property.

Why use LiDAR to scan a property?

LiDAR scanners are useful in real estate because they reduce human error due to their objectivity.

LiDAR scanning produces accurate point clouds that form the foundation for many solutions and workflows. A single point cloud can be used to create floorplans, 3D models, embedded panoramic images, and much more.

Handheld LiDAR scanners are easier to use, so specialist surveyors are not required.  Netherlands-based media and marketing company, ZIEN24, use its photographers to scan the properties whilst they are on-site taking photos, with a 99% success rate.

Traditionally, mapping properties would be documented by capturing single-point measurements, measuring floorplans with a measuring tape, and noting down the figures by hand. This transitioned into Laser Rangefinders which project a single laser beam from one wall to another, providing a measurement between the two points. Laser Rangefinders are portable and easy to use, but can be inaccurate, especially in angular or curved rooms. Over a large portfolio of work, these inaccuracies add up to large losses in square footage.

Early real estate adopters of LiDAR have benefitted from finding measurement inaccuracies in their property portfolios, leading to a quick return on investment.

LiDAR solutions can often be accompanied by accessories such as the ZEB Pano for embedded 360o photos. Handheld LiDAR scanners are often more versatile and can be mounted to drones for capturing out-of-reach building exteriors.

LiDAR scanners can benefit companies that own various properties with their facilities and asset management, as they can regularly update their records for very little cost. Creating point clouds allows businesses to check the square footage of their buildings is accurate, which in turn saves money. For example, using a GeoSLAM ZEB Horizon handheld laser scanner, one company based in America discovered 240,000 additional square feet in a 12 million square foot portfolio. This data capture meant their net annual profit increased by $5.2 million.

Capturing accurate measurements of a building also enables companies to verify the size of their properties. This is useful for facilities management as it allows them to efficiently use their space. The collected 3D information can be used for a wide range of reasons such as insurance, documentation, inventory and resource assets. This gives the ability to create scans that can then go through machine learning process analysis to test the condition of properties. This workflow is creating incredible efficiencies and changing systems, not only in the real estate market but also in wider sectors.

Laser scanners are also useful in the construction industry and in architecture, especially within real estate, as the data can be used for planned additions to buildings. This includes the removal of interior walls and extensions to residential or commercial properties. Additionally, the ability to easily create accurate floorplans is valuable when renovating properties or planning layouts of buildings.

The data collected from GeoSLAM’s laser scanners, and processed in GeoSLAM Connect, can be integrated into third-party software to create BIM models. This is important for real estate projects as BIM models create digital representations of buildings which are used for planning and comparing with the actual building itself.

The research and development in LiDAR create the opportunity for one scanner to perform multiple tasks, from documentation to marketing. The speed of data capture increases the proficiency of services provided by the real estate sector. Companies that embrace LiDAR technologies to streamline their workflows also improve the quality of their data output.

Want to try GeoSLAM LiDAR for yourself?

Find your local dealer to arrange a demonstration.