Construction time lapse photography has become increasingly popular in recent years, but is it worth the expense?
Before we dive into the details, it's important to consider the purpose of your construction time lapse.
The two most common usages are remote monitoring and project marketing. Improved stakeholder relations and enhanced corporate brand are two other benefits.
Remote monitoring can give stakeholders access to daily progress updates and document quality control or sub-trade performance issues.
Using footage for marketing provides an obvious benefit - potential clients will get a comprehensive overview of your specialty projects. Closing one deal will easily justify the expense.
It's worth noting that time lapse is a mandatory component of many newer construction contracts, so it's worth preparing for this by understanding how to make the best use of the footage.
This article will provide an overview of the costs and benefits of using construction time lapse photography.
Factors that Affect the Cost of Time Lapse Photography
Construction time lapse presents unique issues that affect the setup costs.
Duration is a significant consideration since most projects last months or years. This affects the quality and durability of the equipment that you choose. It also affects the labor cost of supporting the project over an extended time frame.
The very nature of a construction site is another factor. Heavy machinery is moving around in potentially unpredictable patterns. Getting the cameras to the right vantage point may also require additional mounting expense.
The three categories of expense for your time lapse project are:
1. Equipment and Setup Costs
One of the most significant costs associated with time lapse photography is the equipment and setup.
The camera you choose is important, but the protective housing is also essential. Here is an example of a CamDo system that includes all components required to shoot and monitor your project. Using CloudX software, you can generate 4K time lapse videos from stored images with a few clicks, and schedule videos for automatic creation.
Setup is another critical consideration. A simple tripod only works for short-duration detail shots. A permanent pole is more appropriate for achieving a good vantage point, preventing theft and providing stability. Notice in the CamDo example above that solar power eliminates the need to run power to the pole.
Additionally, you'll need to invest in software to edit and compile your footage.
2. Time and Labor Costs
Depending on the complexity of your project, you may consider hiring a professional. In this case, they will likely be able to quote a price including installation, maintenance, and post-production.
How your project is set up will majorly impact the ongoing maintenance costs. For example, if you don't invest in remote monitoring, someone has to check the cameras daily. If a camera goes down, you will lose the entire interval from the last time you checked.
If you include remote monitoring in your setup, most projects only require weekly or less frequent onsite maintenance. If a major failure occurs, someone can travel to the site to fix the problem immediately. Your regular visits would only be to clean lenses and empty storage cards.
3. Maintenance and Storage Costs
Finally, it's important to consider the ongoing maintenance and storage costs associated with your time lapse footage. You may have to replace cameras, especially if your project duration is over years. You'll also need a plan for storing your footage securely and backing it up regularly.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits to both owners and contractors for using construction time lapse.
Time lapse photography allows project managers to remotely monitor the progress of their construction project.
The increase in camera resolution provides a very comprehensive view of the site at frequent intervals. There is a growing list of uses that these images are being used for including:
Day-to-day progress can be tracked to determine if the project as a whole is on schedule. Delays can be identified and adjustments made to other parts of the project that are impacted.
Inefficiencies and bottlenecks can be identified and actions taken to correct them.
- Project managers can travel backward in time to resolve disputes with subcontractors. This can often include details of sequencing disruptions, delays related to weather, job duration, or materials and workmanship defects.
Each of these benefits can result in cost savings and improved timelines.
Increased Revenue from Marketing and Sales
Time lapse footage is a compelling and engaging visual of any construction project. Developers, realtors, architects and even sub-trades can use the footage in their marketing packages. Winning one additional job can easily justify the expense.
Improved Stakeholder Engagement and Satisfaction
Time lapse footage can improve communication and transparency with stakeholders. The real-time view can catch problems early and prevent them from snowballing.
Enhanced Brand Reputation
Construction time lapse footage can also help enhance a firm's brand reputation. By showcasing your work and success, firms can improve their credibility and reputation within their industry.
Measuring the cost-benefit of time lapse
It is not easy to predict the downstream cost savings or revenue benefits of time lapse.
A responsible approach is to start by adding up all of the costs including hardware, setup, and ongoing maintenance. Take these costs and allocate them between the different benefit categories.
Determine simple metrics such as what a one-day schedule delay costs. How much time communicating with stakeholders will be saved? How much cost is at stake settling a sub-trade dispute? And the big one, what is the benefit of one additional project?
It should become apparent fairly quickly that time lapse will pay off.
While it's easy to measure the cost of installing construction time lapse, quantifying the dollar benefit is somewhat more difficult.
The associated costs can vary depending on the duration of the project and the complexity of the site and equipment setup.
It is important to consider all factors, including hardware, setup, labor, and ongoing maintenance, in your calculation.
Determine simple metrics around the cost savings or revenue benefits.
These might include what is the per-hour cost of a delay. What is the average cost saved in settling subcontractor disputes? What is the time savings in stakeholder communications? What is the revenue upside of one additional project?
Even if time lapse is mandatory in your contract, it's still worth doing the exercise to maximize the benefit to you.
Ready to start your time lapse project?