The National Academies

NCHRP 10-110A [Pending]

Guide to Using 3D Models for Construction Inspection

  Project Data
Funds: $210,000
Contract Time: 24 months
Staff Responsibility: Camille Crichton-Sumners


Many state departments of transportation (DOTs) have implemented three-dimensional (3D) models for project planning, design, and construction; however, field inspection staff need to develop the requisite skills for using digital inspection procedures. Some state DOT staff have limited exposure to or proficiency in using 3D models for uniform inspection processes and procedures. Three-dimensional models provide detailed information, efficiency, and visualization capabilities. These models can replace the current standard two-dimensional (2D) plan sets and offer effective tools and streamlined practices. Construction inspectors are expected to use data from 3D models to measure, verify, and accept construction materials and payment quantities. Many inspectors access this information through PDF or paper plans. Digital 3D models eliminate the need for some portions of 2D plans since details and visualizations are in the models. Identifying what construction inspectors need for optimal use of data from 3D models is an area of opportunity for state DOTs who can potentially develop digital solutions for construction contract documents. Some states are piloting the use of 3D design models as the primary contract document. Other states adopting 3D models plan to continue to make 2D plans available for a limited time. There is a need to prepare staff for the migration to 3D models and to develop a 3D model use guide and training for construction inspectors.


The objective of this study is to develop a guide for construction inspectors that (1) describes what information construction inspectors need to utilize data from 3D models and how to best document construction activities, and (2) identifies and catalogs the business needs and core competencies of construction inspectors using data from 3D digital models.

At a minimum, the research shall include consideration of the following questions:

  • What inspection activities potentially require data originating from a 3D model?
  • What constraints prevent inspectors’ use of 3D models or digital information?
  • What data is needed for inspection compliance and what is a suitable format for inspectors’ use?
  • How do state DOTs ensure the correct data is being extracted and how will this data be provided to the inspector?
  • What 3D data are needed for inspectors to accurately document and verify field changes or design changes? 
  • What are the mechanisms for inspection staff to use data from 3D models to improve construction inspection processes? 

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks. 


Task 1. Conduct a literature review and provide a written report that identifies knowledge gaps and a plan for how they will be addressed.  

Task 2. Identify what 3D model information inspectors need to support construction inspection, verification, and contract administration in a user-friendly format.  

Task 3. Develop core competencies, skill levels, and training needs for construction inspectors, with varied maturity levels for using 3D models and data originating from 3D models for construction inspection and acceptance.  

Task 4. Prepare an annotated outline of the proposed guide that can be used to train construction inspectors.  

Task 5. Prepare an interim report that documents the work completed in Tasks 1 through 4. Include the detailed outline for the guide proposed in Task 4. Following the review of the interim report by NCHRP, the research team will be required to make an in-person presentation to the project panel.  

Task 6. Develop the proposed guide according to the approved interim report.

Task 7. Develop the final deliverables, which shall include at a minimum (1) a final report documenting the entire research effort; (2) a guide to using data from 3D models for construction inspection; (3) a PowerPoint presentation describing the background, objectives, research approach, findings, and conclusions; and (4) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” with language suitable for a broad range of stakeholders that includes recommendations for practitioner outreach, education, and assimilation.  


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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