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How 3D Immersive Media is Helping Protect Against Property Damage

Be it by falling tree, California wildfire, or Hurricane Harvey floodtide, property owners’ assets are always at risk in the hands of the unpredictable. Regardless of whether you run a mom-and-pop shop or an industrial empire, property damage can deal a devastating blow to your business, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover it. To protect against potential insurance losses, an increasing number of property owners are turning to 3D immersive media to more thoroughly document the condition of their assets before and after disaster strikes.

Recovering property from a disaster is a long and complicated process. Depending on size, claims can typically take anywhere from two to six months at minimum, and may involve numerous visits to a site by an appraisal professional who must detail the extent of damage in order for an insured to receive full compensation. The larger the claim, the larger the hassle one faces throughout the insurance process. The finite details matter when taking inventory of damages, but reporting on minor elements (like water damaged walls after a flood, for example) can be a daunting task even for the most experienced claims adjuster. Ultimately, using a 3D camera to create a virtual model can dramatically increase the comprehensiveness of documentation, providing a level of dimensionality and detail that matters when it comes to insurance claims.

For the past 50 years, pen, pencil, and ruler have been the standby of appraisal professionals across the industry, coupled with good, hard brain power. Photographs and videos can be used to counter human error, but they are often incomplete and lack context and depth. Many have adopted 3D scans like those performed by Matterport, a fully immersive end-to-end VR platform, to capture the minutiae of their properties from floor to ceiling.

With immersive media, owners, restoration contractors, investigators and adjusters can capture a 3D digital copy of an affected space at a given point in time, allowing remote viewers to move about a property, view from different perspectives and zoom into details. This technology turns a property into a high-definition digital “dollhouse,” allowing any authorized people to walk through the space virtually via browser, mobile device, or VR headset. It can even pick up images in spaces with extremely low light, allowing for the capture of dark basements or burnt-out structures with relative ease.

Auditing precisely what a business has lost in a disaster could mean the difference between immediate financial failure or recovery, so being able to present an accurate and complete record is key to speeding the claims process and recouping on damages. 3D scans freeze a property owner’s most valuable assets in time by recording structures and objects as they are both before and after disasters occur, so that property owners can get back on their feet again – often times before their insurance claim is sorted out. Without this documentation, any move to repair a property otherwise could likely protract a claims process by “disturbing” the scene of the damage (meaning that if/when appraisers return, they won’t see the property in the state it was in after the initial damage occurred).

By using a special camera, insurance estimators were able to digitally capture a hurricane-damaged hospital’s ground floor in 3D while restoration crews were working to mitigate the storm damage. (Matterport)

Take, for example, this 31,000-square-foot Hospital in Plantation, Florida. Just 30 minutes from the shore, Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds and driving rain affected not only the surface level of the property, but its ceilings as well. After racking up $135,000 in water damages in the ceilings and floors, the owners contacted their insurance carrier to cover the cost of repairs. However, an initial human assessment could only award $23,000 for the mitigation–the process of drying and cleaning the affected space. By using a Matterport camera, WriteLoss, an insurance estimation company based out of Ft. Lauderdale, was able to digitally capture the entirety of the hospital’s damaged ground floor in 3D all while extraction and drying crews were working to mitigate the result of the storm. You can see in this example (link above) exactly how much detail was provided and the extent of the damage. In roughly 24 hours, Writeloss was able to present the hospital with complete documentation that included over 54 different line items and a detailed Xactimate estimate. This allowed their client to more quickly recoup the additional $101,000 for their contractor in order to cover the costs of the building’s repairs.

In the last year, WriteLoss has performed almost 800 Matterport scans of both commercial and residential properties. As you can see, the benefits of 3D scanning after losses like those caused by Irma are obvious, but just imagine if owners were to scan property before the disaster. As we look towards the increased adoption of 3D scanning technology in the real estate sector, expect to see hyper-diligent documentation of properties from the planning and development stages to construction and beyond.

Though we do not know what tomorrow may bring, one thing is for certain: the advent of 3D makes it easier to respond to Mother Nature as soon as she strikes, allowing for the speedy deployment of repair crews, and the subsequent restoration of lives and livelihoods. From a social standpoint, as well as a financial one, 3D reality capture technology will allow insured owners to sleep better at night knowing they’re protected against loss.

Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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