Digital Tools Streamlining Commercial Property Inspections And Surveying

Commercial property surveys and inspections have remained relatively formulaic for decades. The crucial due diligence process of inspecting and surveying properties has remained relatively unchanged for some time.

That said, new technologies are emerging that serve to make this tick-box exercise much faster, more accurate and more efficient for commercial agents and property managers. From mobile applications to 3D scanning to drones, Proptech innovations are changing the inspection landscape significantly, cutting down on manual efforts and alleviating agents from excessive, tiresome and labour-intensive paperwork.

Find out some of the most innovative and intuitive tech that looks set to transform the ways that commercial properties can be routinely inspected and surveyed.

Automated and AI-powered defect detection

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are two intertwined technologies that are causing widespread disruption in many industries, and property is no different. While it’s no secret that AI can transform agents’ content marketing, lead generation and data entry efforts, the tech can also be used as the backbone for visual inspection solutions.

AI-powered software can autonomously detect defects and issues in buildings, based on insights and data from surveys, and therefore automate many of the laborious and time-consuming parts of manual property inspections.

Inspection tools such as TensorFlight can provide in-depth visualisations of properties, while using AI to highlight potential areas for further inspection and deeper analysis, meaning surveyors can dedicate their time and efforts to the most imperative tasks.

By leveraging automation, surveyors and commercial estate agents can intelligently analyse images, models and datasets to identify problem areas such as dampness, corrosion, asbestos, and so on.

Drones and UAVs to access high-up or hard-to-reach areas

Drones have become an invaluable tool for commercial property surveyors, enabling access to difficult areas like roofs, chimneys, gutters and facades, as well as the external walls of high-rise buildings and blocks of flats.

Equipped with high-resolution cameras, drones can capture detailed imagery and videos of a building's external condition. Built-in photo-capturing software can then stitch these images and video content together into sophisticated, immersive models that can provide detailed inspection maps for surveyors and agents.

Providing this extent of data and photographic evidence makes report generation much more detailed and efficient; it’s no surprise that surveyors are regularly using these UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to conduct greater numbers of detailed RICS Homebuyer surveys and reports.

Drone deployments are much safer and faster than manual inspections of hard-to-reach areas. They also cause no disruption to a building's occupants and are relatively easy to learn with minimal training.

3D laser scanning for precise digital replication

Static LiDAR technology - another word for terrestrial laser scanning - is becoming vital for commercial building surveys and inspections. Tripod-mounted scanners allow surveyors to deliver more comprehensive surveys, capturing very specific areas or everything within view, with individual scans distributed within a few seconds. The scans are condensed and aggregated to construct detailed 3D property models.

These scans pick up all physical and structural details at millimetre-level accuracy, which can then be used to create bespoke, detailed floor plans, flythroughs, elevations and supporting imagery for property listings. Everything is geospatially located with precise measurements and details. Using this highly sophisticated technology, professionals can inspect a property’s condition and identify defects with ease, often in real-time.

Dynamic mobile apps for improved accessibility and analysis

Mobile applications can make inspection reports much more sophisticated, usable and shareable for all stakeholders involved in a property transaction. Surveyors can use mobile applications to capture HD photos, videos, annotate images, and deploy measurements directly on-site, and subsequently embed these assets in their reports.

Interactive floor plans can also be created as a result of the images and supporting measurement data, thus making navigation and analysis easier. With these assets backed up by detailed, timestamped analytics, defects and issues can be identified with greater accuracy and efficiency.

Having inspection data in accessible and visual formats enhances understanding for clients. It also enables improved maintenance and repair scope planning. Commercial Estate Agents can find end-to-end platforms for defect detection and 3D CAD floor plan rendering, such as AutoCAD LT from Autodesk

Exercising caution with human oversight

While property technology tools provide significant cost- and time-saving benefits, they can’t replace the need for qualified professionals conducting on-site assessments and inspections‌.

Comprehensive building surveys and inspections still require meticulous attention to detail and expert human skill, experience, and opinion for all elements. While technology can certainly improve productivity and automate many manual components of the surveying process, we are still at a point where we can’t entirely entrust all aspects to computers and algorithms.

With people supervising and managing the use of this technology effectively, surveyors and professionals can use their natural senses like smell, hearing, and touch which technology can’t detect or replicate as easily. These insights can therefore be married with the real-time data that apps and tools have already aggregated to make reports more comprehensive and primarily human-driven.

The optimal approach blends traditional techniques with new technologies for more rigorous and complete surveys.

Enhanced due diligence for agents and property managers

For agents and property management professionals, the emergence of new proptech tools makes the due diligence processes much more enhanced for sales, lettings, and ongoing asset management purposes.

The baseline documentation derived from drone imagery and scans makes the property condition reports more comprehensive during the acquisition stage. From this, comparisons can be drawn with images taken down the line, thus making future repairs more accurate and easy to identify and schedule.

Ongoing maintenance scans at regular intervals can identify emerging defects early. Having detailed digital defect reports also aids in repair scope planning and contractor management.

Technologies like automated AI analysis provide more consistent and objective insight, while still allowing for manual assessment by experienced surveyors.

Overall these innovations in technology mean commercial property professionals can provide clients with greater transparency, scrutiny and planning abilities when it comes to the built environment. This raises trust and satisfaction for vendors, buyers, and landlords under contract with agents.

It’s hopefully clear to see that the adoption of proptech tools requires the right strategic approach for them to be optimally effective. Their benefits are clear, in that they can streamline and automate many of the cumbersome aspects of surveying while delivering greater insights, detail and analytics. The key is harnessing and leveraging the technology to make the process work for each end user, and not viewing apps and software as sufficient replacements for hardworking property professionals.

Leveraging the strengths of technology and marrying them with your own methodical approaches and real-world experience will allow agents to reap more of their benefits. From this, smarter management, leasing, selling, and investment calculation decisions can be made. In the near future, it’s evident that we will see the further integration of emerging technologies within the property sector, paving the way for more productive and insightful approaches.

If you can successfully embrace and implement the technology and tools available now, it will work in your favour down the line.

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By Dakota Murphey
24th August 2023

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