< Research Projects

Use of 3D-Scanning Technology’s amidst a Pandemic for Retail Development

Date 08.04.21

By Dhruv Gulabchande

A short study in to the use of cloud-based survey data for review and collaboration, during a period of limited mobility as a cause of the pandemic, for partial reconfiguration of an existing shopping centre.


Case Study HFM Architects, Ruxton Surveys, Lidl, The Mall, Luton for Capital & Regional.

HFM Architects have built up a solid working relationship with Ruxton Surveys over the past decade, and we have always appreciated their quality of service as well as their immediacy on so many of our projects. The most recent of which being a project at The Mall Shopping Centre, Luton working with Capital & Regional for Lidl UK.


The project looks to convert a former Marks and Spencers retail unit spanning 3 storeys in to a store for Lidl and other retail uses. Ruxton Surveys were initially engaged to survey the existing extents of the area post-strip out. Ben Ruxton particularly has been of great assistance on the project especially over the Christmas period in accommodating information release for the ever-accelerating programme. The scope of survey included the somewhat regular brief to assess the existing site conditions once all of M&S’ fixtures and fittings had been removed. A specific requirement was to provide spot levels from the survey data which would enable Lidl to better understand levels for their proposed floor finishes.


More excitingly though, over the past few months, HFM have been working with Ben Ruxton reviewing a tool called WebShare, by FARO - industry leaders specialising in the manufacture of portable 3D measurement systems. The tool essentially allows the user to review a point-cloud based 3D survey model within a web browser. Ruxtons are quite regularly asked to provide either a point cloud or even a fully worked model but having this tool enables them to simply send a link and login details for the uploaded data model.


FARO market the product as having secure, cloud-based global project management capabilities so everyone on the team can stay informed with web access to accurate 3D reality data of any size and from any source. They showcase their key software benefits to include; easier collaboration, powerful evaluation tools, savings of time and money and ultimately simpler data visualisation.


Since January this year, HFM have been testing the software between Tender and Construction stages on the Lidl shell and core project. The tool has thus far assisted with the following exercises;


  • checking heights and conditions of doors,

  • coordinating drainage penetrations in existing concrete planks,

  • understanding of existing gas mains,

  • loading dock opening measurements,

  • visual inspection of wall conditions, and

  • review of existing steel splice connection details.


Usually HFM would undertake a number of site visits to address these issues however in the height of the pandemic, with travel being restricted, the cloud-based data was an invaluable resource.


The tool, as many in their infancy, has its drawbacks including requiring a somewhat speedy machine to run the browser software, and having a steep learning curve - the filtering options are unfortunately just not intuitive enough.

We also found that the information was only as good as the initial points provided. For example, some objects may be obscured behind other objects within the model from a certain point. If we were to utilise such a scan in the future, we would request a number of points taken between structural bays to avoid hidden elements.


Though, beyond the above very few shortcomings, HFM would highly recommend this type of survey, particularly as we may now enter a period of flexible working arrangements.

The domestication of scanning technology to this scale and smaller (such as the Polycam app on the iPad) has made the review and assessment of 3D modeling data much more accessible. As we further reconfigure and repurpose our spaces, in a time where safety is paramount, tools like WebShare by FARO seem crucial within the industry.

Many thanks once again to Ben Ruxton of Ruxton Surveys.


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