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A Guide to Automate Project Progress Control by Leveraging LiDAR and 3D/4D Information Models


Accurate and frequent construction progress tracking provides critical input data for project systems such as cost and schedule control as well as billing. Traditional progress tracking techniques are labor intensive, sometimes subject to negotiation, and often driven by arcane rules. Attempts to improve progress tracking of building construction projects have recently focused mainly on automation, using technologies such as laser scanners, Global Positioning System (GPS), hand-held computers, voice recognition, wireless networks, and other technologies in various combinations. Three dimensional (3D) terrestrial laser scanners (commonly referred to as LiDARs) coupled with four dimensional (4D) information models (3D information models + project schedule) have shown great potential for saving time and cost for recording project 3D status of building construction projects and thus to support some categories of project progress tracking. Although both LiDARs and 3D information models are being investigated and used in multiple applications by department of transportations (DOTs), their potential for monitoring construction of transportation projects have not yet been explored.

Over the past few decades, various advanced technologies have been adopted in the transportation industry to improve the accuracy and efficiency in design and construction, which includes GPS, LiDAR, and information modeling. Transportation design and construction processes have been gradually improved with the emergence of these technologies. For example, the impact of 3D information modeling for highway design is substantial. As the benefits of building information modeling (BIM) have been observed in the vertical design and construction industry, an increasing number of professionals have started to apply 3D information models (also referred to as BIM, Heavy BIM, Horizontal BIM, virtual design and construction (VDC), and civil information modeling (CiM)) in the horizontal transportation industry. Many state DOTs as well as their contractors and consultants in the U.S. have been using 3D information models for various applications, mostly in project planning, design and construction phases. LiDAR technology is extensively used by state DOTs for spatial data collection as it enables fast, accurate and safe data collection compared to traditional surveying methods.

Previous research has focused on developing automated, efficient and effective recognition of building project 3D BIM objects in LiDAR data. This is done by comparing as-built data (3D point clouds), which is captured using LiDAR, with as-planned data, 4D information model (3D design information model + project schedule) using object recognition algorithms. The findings from these studies suggest that accurate tracking of building project progress is possible by combining 4D information models with 3D LiDAR point clouds.


The main objective of this research is to develop a guidebook for DOTs to automate progress tracking of their transportation projects, bridge construction projects in particular, by leveraging 3D LiDAR point clouds and 4D information models. A progress tracking system that is efficient, accurate, and objective will help DOTs better monitor their projects, and take timely actions when necessary. Such automated progress tracking system should help improve construction productivity, as well as project schedule and cost performance for the DOTs.


The results of this study can potentially provide DOTs with guidance for automated progress tracking using 3D LiDAR and 4D information models. The guidance will then help DOTs to improve productivity, project schedule, and cost performance for DOT projects.


The research objective will be achieved by completing the following tasks:

Task 1: Conduct a review of the past and current practices in project progress tracking methods in the construction industry.

Task 2: Identify current uses of 3D/4D information models and LiDAR used in the transportation construction industry as well as the available support technologies in 3D/4D information models and LiDAR.

Task 3: Identify the technical requirements for DOTs and contractors to implement 3D/4D information models and LiDAR for construction project progress tracking. These technical requirements include process change, equipment, and personnel training.

Task 4: Develop tools to help DOTs and contractors evaluate their readiness for the new project control process.

Task 5: Assess the costs and benefits of using LiDAR point clouds and 3D/4D information models for project control.

Task 6: Develop specific strategies and guidelines for the implementation of LiDAR point clouds and 3D/4D information models for project control.

Sponsoring Committee:AKC10, Construction Management
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:Medium
RNS Developer:Dr. Yelda Turkan, Iowa State University; Dr. Yongwei Shan, Oklahoma State University
Date Posted:07/25/2016
Date Modified:08/12/2016
Index Terms:Global Positioning System, Wireless communication systems, Laser radar, Mathematical models, Building materials,
Cosponsoring Committees:AED50, Information Systems and Technology
Administration and Management
Data and Information Technology
Transportation (General)

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