20 Dec Why Use a Comprehensive Photo Documentation Service on the Construction Site?
Why We Take Construction Photographs
Taking photographs to record issues and progress is standard practice on the modern construction site. Where the adage of “a picture paints a thousand words” holds true, a construction professional or facilities manager can immediately interpret a photograph without additional training. And each photograph provides a time-stamped visual of specific construction elements and materials.
Regularly taking photographs has been proven to:
- Increase communication and confirm project milestones across project team members, trades, and stakeholders
- Track progress, including installation of elements and movement of materials
- Provide evidence of contract and bylaw compliance
- Supplement documentation provided to facilities managers at project hand-over
Approaches to Collecting and Managing Construction Imagery
Photographs provide a project team or facilities manager with the visual information to know how a building has been constructed, which leads to savings through reducing cost overruns or rework. However, there are tangible and intangible costs associated with both capturing photographs and managing them.
Standards and protocol for managing site photographs vary dramatically — from photographs simply stored in project folders, through to being virtually associated with rooms on a digital floor plan, or being surveyed into a plan with absolute coordinates. Technology has evolved to the extent that everyone essentially has a camera in their pocket, and many web-based platforms and apps can be used for storing photographs taken by site personnel.
The True Cost of the Do-It-Yourself Approach
As the construction site has become an increasingly tech-savvy workplace, mobile devices are used widely for many types of reporting and project management tasks. In addition to the cameras in our smartphones, it is easy to purchase a 360-degree camera for a couple of hundred dollars.
So then, can it perhaps be easy for anyone onsite to become a site photographer?
In addition to paying the subscription fee to a cloud hosting service, here are some questions and factors that you may wish to consider before embarking on a do-it-yourself approach:
- Does everyone collecting images have the same priorities? Will locations need to be revisited if a team member neglects to document an installation on a previous site visit? What is the time and project cost of that revisit?
- The extent that construction elements can be seen in photographs will be a function of the resolution of the image and the distance that the photograph was taken at. Image clarity will also be affected by the extent of illumination and the HDR (high dynamic ranging) characteristics of the imaging device being used. What is the cost associated with either needing to capture more images from more positions, or needing to revisit because something was missed, or that lighting conditions meant that the images were simply unusable?Incidentally, to help better understand approaches to capturing site photos, the S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) is developing an imagery specification.
- How will photographs taken during different construction phases be compared? Is a busy team able to take the time to locate photographs so that camera positions are consistent between construction phases?
- During the time that site personnel are taking photographs, what are they not doing?
- To what extent can all project members and stakeholders access and analyze the images? To what extent do subscription fees ramp up when more users require access?
- What is the cost of preparing documentation for hand-over to facility managers? What is the cost to facility managers of the “blind-spot” at project hand-over? (A NIST study estimated the cost of timely access to accurate information at project hand-over to be 23 cents per sq. ft.)
- What is the true cost of missing a conflict or not being able to prove compliance, of not possessing a complete image dataset throughout the site for each phase of the project?
The value of a comprehensive photo documentation service
At Photodocufy, we believe in providing a comprehensive service for photo documentation. We take care of the capture, management, and delivery of the centralized image dataset to those who need it.
There are increasing contractual and regulatory drivers across the industry for capturing complete and continuous image datasets of exteriors, and the inside of every wall and ceiling, at each phase of a project. Because of the risks involved in non-compliance, it is Photodocufy’s view that a dedicated service can best ensure that photo documentation does not add overhead and risk to a project.
A comprehensive photo documentation service brings increased efficiencies and reduced risk to projects through using professional-grade 360-degree imaging equipment:
- Not only do these systems bring high-resolution image frames, HDR characteristics are also much wider than on consumer-grade systems. On construction sites where multiple trades are operating, and lighting conditions will vary dramatically, each image from a professional-grade imaging system is more likely to be inspection grade.
- Using 360-degree imaging systems also means that one image frame typically includes the information of at least six image frames from a standard camera, meaning that fewer trades and construction personnel are disturbed onsite and fewer images need to be stored and managed.
- Experienced photo documentation professionals capture the images: Photodocufy site personnel have a background in surveying or geomatics. This means that they better understand how to plan the capture of images so that fewest number of images are required to provide complete coverage across the site. And camera positions can be consistently replicated at each construction phase.
- A specialist service provider such as Photodocufy can bring to a project additional types of imaging systems such as UAV mounted cameras and terrestrial laser scanners. All these data types can be managed on a central platform.
- The data management platform is managed by a team on a dedicated project basis. If you need to adjust access across multiple internal or external parties or wish to adjust timing of image capture phases or specifications, a dedicated Photodocufy project manager is there to help and be accountable for the imagery provided.
Through engaging with a comprehensive photo documentation service, quality is maintained across the documentation activity that is itself integral to the quality control of the project.