the world's most visited architecture website

Sign up now and start saving and organizing your favorite architecture projects and photos

Sign up now to save and organize your favorite architecture projects


Find the most inspiring products for your projects in our Product Catalog.

Find the most inspiring products in our Product Catalog.


Get the ArchDaily Chrome Extension and be inspired with every new tab. Install here »


All over the world, architects are finding cool ways to re-use run-down old buildings. Click here to see the best in Refurbishment Architecture.

Want to see the coolest refurbishment projects? Click here.


Immerse yourself in inspiring buildings with our selection of 360 videos. Click here.

See our immersive, inspiring 360 videos. Click here.

Navigate articles using your keyboard
  1. ArchDaily
  2. News
  3. 10 Models Which Show the Power of Point Cloud Scans, As Selected by Sketchfab

10 Models Which Show the Power of Point Cloud Scans, As Selected by Sketchfab

10 Models Which Show the Power of Point Cloud Scans, As Selected by Sketchfab
This Virtual Reality article is sponsored by:
Saint-Gobain is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on any information contained on this site. No guarantee is given by Saint-Gobain that the information is correct, complete or up-to-date or will not infringe any copyright or other intellectual property right and Saint-Gobain does not endorse any of the information contained on this site. Although the ArchDaily website may provide links to other internet resources, including web sites, Saint-Gobain is not responsible for the accuracy or content of information in these sites. Links from the ArchDaily website to third-party sites do not constitute an endorsement by Saint-Gobain of the parties of their products or services.
10 Models Which Show the Power of Point Cloud Scans, As Selected by Sketchfab, via Sketchfab
via Sketchfab

Traditional 3D models made up of surfaces have for a long time aided us in visualizing buildings and spaces, but they often come at a cost: large models require a lot of storage and processing power, and can become incredibly complex to the point where they are difficult to navigate. As a part of our Selected by Sketchfab series, Sketchfab has their eye on a more efficient, increasingly common method of capturing architectural spaces; namely, point clouds. Point clouds are made up of a set of points located in a three-dimensional coordinate system, that when put together merely give an impression of the surface of an object, or the façade of a building.

The method is fairly simple. The collection of data points is generated by a 3D scanner that rotates while emitting a laser that measures the distance to points on surrounding surfaces. This data can then be converted into a polygonal model that can be rendered like any other 3D model. However, the advantages of keeping the scan in point form are what makes it great; the file sizes are much smaller, and the porosity of the point clouds make it possible to see through walls and surfaces, accessing "hidden" spaces and uncommon views of seemingly familiar surroundings. Read on to find out more about the possibilities and advantages that come with point cloud modelling.

1. Generating Large-Scale Overviews

Getting an idea of the scale and relationships between spaces within a site can be challenging and time consuming using traditional polygon surface modelling, and will certainly produce a large file to work with. Using the point cloud technique minimizes these problems, as can be seen with the model below:

Of course the resolution of a point cloud can be adjusted to include far more details, as in the following models:

2. Accessing "Hidden" Spaces

Due to the low density of points in the clouds, it’s possible to see through what would ordinarily be solid surfaces, as in the case of the passages within the thick stone wall in the model below:

The possibilities that come with this simultaneous visualization of multiple layers of space could be a fantastic tool for architects to fully grasp the locations they’re working with:

3. Experiencing a Space Through Virtual Reality

Scanning an entire building can consequently be paired with a virtual reality headset in order to re-experience, or share an experience of a space with others who may not have had the opportunity to visit the site. While this is also true of other scans with surfaces included, the same advantages of small file size and partial transparency mentioned above come into their own in virtual reality too, providing a smooth viewing experience and a sense of what's just around the corner, as demonstrated here:

The same can be applied to scanning landscapes, in order to experience the visual results of different typology:

When it comes to virtual reality, point cloud scans may be most useful for places with complex and detailed material qualities, where even if the scan is relatively small, the file size of a fully detailed model would be entirely unmanageable. This is the case in the following scan, which gives an excellent impression of the cabin's rough wood and overgrown roof without having to render the millions of faces that would be required:

4. Visualizing Simplified Geometry 

Point clouds allow for the saving of models with complex geometry, without sacrificing enormous amounts of space and computing power, by minimizing the points collected in the cloud. Despite the perforated effect, the varied surfaces are easy to detect and view:

Here is a model of an interior space, simplified even further due to the dominance of flat surfaces. The contours generated by simplification can sometimes even be more beautiful than the original complexity:

About this author
Ariana Zilliacus
Cite: Ariana Zilliacus. "10 Models Which Show the Power of Point Cloud Scans, As Selected by Sketchfab" 09 Nov 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
via Sketchfab


You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.