October 29, 2010
EagleView Technologies software provides roof measurements, estimates
Roofing contractors and specialists are increasingly taking advantage of software packages that allow them to examine and measure building features and properties without ever visiting the site.
“I’m primarily involved in roof condition surveys and often use Google Earth to see right away what we might be up against,” says Dave Ross, asset manager with IRC Building Sciences Group Inc. in Mississauga. “It reduces preparation time in that you know what type of roof you’ll be looking at, and helps us set up a plan of attack. It also helps us to decide how we might gain access to the roof, or whether there are any neighbouring buildings that might be important.”
In addition, Google Earth sets up directional references, allowing Ross to make more detailed assumptions about wind direction and precipitation patterns. Although the scale of Google Earth provides enough detail to make preliminary calculations, third party software packages can make the job easier, integrating with Google to provide detailed results that are super-imposed on the map.
“We also use Google Street View so that we can walk around the building in virtual space, and get a general sense of the elevations,” says Ross. “We will always confirm the exact measurements with a site visit, but Google gives us a general sense of what we’ll find when we get there.”
A new breed of high-tech services is offering contractors still more accurate measurements using aerial photography. Typical satellite shots offered by Google Maps provide a bird’s eye view looking straight down at any feature. The new services, however, use photographs shot all around the building, allowing them to accurately calculate such features as slopes, roof pitch and roof area.
EagleView Technologies of Bothwell, Washington, for example, provides an express service for roofing contractors, insurance companies, insurance adjusters and solar panel installers.
“The contractor simply sends us the address of the building on which they’re quoting and we will provide them with the measurements and images of the building,” says Heidi Ellsworth, marketing director with EagleView.
The service relies on pre-existing photographs from a number of sources, including companies who provide aerial images for government databases or property tax purposes.
Although satellite imagery is available for nearly every location on earth, most of the images are too coarse to be useful for accurately measuring building details. While commercially available satellite images are limited to about 18 inches of terrain per pixel, aerial photographs provide detail approaching four inches per pixel.
“When we have a top-down shot and all four sides, our proprietary software creates a virtual 3-D model of the structure and then determines accurate measurements,” says Ellsworth. “The software also automatically corrects for lean. Contractors can provide a complete estimate the first time they visit the client without ever having seen the roof.”
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