Why 3D Camera Scanning Doesn't Cut It


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Urban Measure has more than 10 expert measure technicians on staff. For many of them, providing accurate residential measurements is their one and only task. Why? Because without accurate measurements, homeowners and commercial property owners seriously compromise the value of their investments.

In today’s blog we explain the difference between RMS processing and 3D camera scanning for accurate measurements, and why RMS is the only safe option.

What is RMS Processing?

RMS stands for Residential Measurement Standard. Every licensed real estate professional in Alberta must use RMS to ensure a unilateral standard when it comes to the measurements of residential properties.

It’s more than feet and inches, however. RMS also sets the standard for what can and cannot be included in the measured area. For example, detached properties are measured from the exterior wall, starting at the foundation. However, for semi-attached properties like a townhouse or a duplex, measurements start at the interior of the perimeter walls, and at the floor level.

By standardizing measurements, RMS provides a benchmark for easier comparison among properties, and accurate data when it comes to calculating property taxes or installing appliances that will affect the property’s value (knowing how many square feet the furnace has to heat ensures buying the best one for the job, not one that will be inefficient or one whose functionality overshoots what is needed for the space).

RMS Processing Benefits

RMS is strictly controlled. Only real estate professionals can use it and all measurements must be calculated to within 2 per cent of RMS standards. While RMS can be used to measure below-grade areas like basements, only above-grade areas are included in the RMS calculation. RMS allows for additions to the home if they can be used year-round and have been waterproofed. That means, if the homeowner built a mud room or sunroom, it is allowed in the RMS calculation when he or she is ready to sell the property. RMS even has stringent guidelines to account for measuring vaulted ceilings, dormers, cantilevers, bay windows and sloped ceilings. Are the controls exacting? Yes. Very. But without such tight regulations, every real estate professional would measure the home differently, creating a great deal of confusion for consumers and opening the door to misrepresentation of properties.

Accurate measurements are so important that RMS is legislated by the Real Estate Act Rules – sections 41 (b) and 42 (a).

The Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) regulates Alberta Realtors and considers not using RMS an offense to what the profession aims to achieve, which is complete accuracy on all levels and complete consumer confidence.  RECA does not distinguish between Realtors that don’t know about RMS, or Realtors that choose to use a method of measurement outside of RMS. If a method other than RMS was used, and even if that other measurement had some accuracy to it, RECA considers this an “aggravation” of the rules.

What is 3D Camera Scanning?

There is no doubt that 3D camera scanning is an amazing application. In fact, 3D technology has been revolutionizing every industry, from cosplay (creating realistic lightweight armour) to medicine (affordable creation of prosthesis and more efficient creation of prototypes). Naturally, 3D scanning has made its way to the real estate profession.

When you have the ability to “walk” through a property online, that’s 3D scanning. The scanner measures each room and replicates a 3D model that the Realtor and their clients can interact with digitally. It’s a great way to better showcase a property.

However, it’s not a proper or accurate way to take measurements.

Since 3D scanning is so popular, some consumers – and some real estate professionals – believe that 3D scanned measurements can replace the proper trusted measurement process? This is not true.

3D Scanning Limitations

As wonderful as it is, 3D camera scanning does not produce the same level of accuracy as manual RMS processing. As an optical technology, something as mundane as a transparent object (glass dining room table) or mirrored object (full length mirror in a bedroom) can affect the scan. Closets and pantries in particular are problematic for 3D scanners. While RMS processing requires measurements to be taken from foundation lines up or perimeter walls, a scanner will not access the square footage beyond a closed door – cheating the property owner out of an accurate, legal measurement.

Additionally, there are several different types of scanners on the market, each with their own pros and cons – and each with their own measurement methods and technology. For example, a 3D scanner that uses triangulation is great for long-range scanning, like what is needed to map an office tower; but it’s not as accurate for a family dwelling. A coordinate measuring machine, or CMM scanner, must physically contact the object it’s scanning. Not good for residential homes at all! A time-of-flight scanner uses a laser to emit a light pulse and creates measurements based on the speed of the light.

Cool, we know. It’s hard not to be impressed by 3D scanning technology – but’s its easy to be unimpressed with the measurement results. Although the measurements can be accurate enough for a ballpark, more so if the right kind of 3D scanner is used for property, those results can never be substituted for manual RMS processing.

See and Understand the Difference

To see and understand the difference, take a look at the two photos below. The photo on the left is a floor plan created with a 3D scanner. The photo on the right is a floor plan created by manual RMS processing. On the left, the plan shows the planter ledge in the kitchen, and counts that ledge in the area’s total square footage. However, RMS rules disallow counting the ledge’s square footage into the plan. Therefore, it is not shown in the scan on the right.

Now, take a look at the dining room. Remember that reflective or transparent surfaces causing problems for 3D scanners. In this case, the cantilever windows were completely missed by the 3D scan, but were accurately picked up by the manual RMS process. Cantilever windows count towards the home’s total square footage in the RMS when they are at floor level, and have more than 5’ of clearance. The cantilevers in this scenario meet those standard.

RMS Processing


Additional Examples

Below is another example. In this case, a 3D scan did not show the pillars on the unit’s exterior, and also missed an entire space beside the foyer. The foyer especially is something to take note of, as it is common for scanners to miss areas in tight spaces and cantilever closets. And do you notice the little jut-outs in places like the bottom left of the master bedroom, the bottom left of the bath, and the top right of the laundry room? Those are areas of technical area by the 3D camera, as no house has uneven walls like that in reality. They may only add an extra 2 inches, but when you are talking about a wall with a 40’ width? The difference it makes is huge. Multiply that by a multi-level home and you’re missing or adding a substantial amount of feet.

While the 3D scan looks very nice, the part that counts the most – accurate measurements – is wrong. The photo below the floor plan shows the same areas with proper RMS processing. The pillars and ductwork are accounted for, as mandated by RMS regulations.. While 3D scanners can’t see those types of details, RMS processing pick them up.

The proof is in the total square footage: 1625.19 square feet (accurate RMS) vs 1588 square feet (3D scan)

 RMS vs 3D




 RMS vs 3D

Why manual RMS processing Trumps 3D Scanning

It comes down to one word: standardization. Manual RMS is extremely accurate, and it holds to a standard that all real estate professionals are legally bound. The RMS does not just take into account the size of the rooms. It accounts for what can and cannot be measured, and how typical elements, like an A- frame bonus room with areas less than 5’ floor to ceiling clearance, must be measured. Oversight from RECA actively polices this standardization.

Imagine buying a house that was measured with a 3D scan, only to turn around and sell it with proper RMS measurements and finding out the square footage is less than you were told (and paid for). With price per square foot dominating housing prices and comparison, a few square feet can be a huge cut.


You Deserve Accurate RMS Measurements

Real estate is a big investment whether you are a homeowner or a real estate professional closing a deal. Realtors, don’t take a chance on unintentionally misleading your clients, and don’t take a chance on disciplinary action from RECA. Homeowners, don’t take a chance on your property’s representation. Demand manual RMS processing procedures. While 3D scanning is a great to create an interactive model of the home, only manual RMS processing will provide the accurate, legislated measurements you are obligated to provide.


We can Help

Urban Measure is Western Canada’s top provider of insured RMS measurements. To learn more about RMS processing and what we offer, contact us today. To learn more about RMS legislation and the principles that govern the process, contact RECA.

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