Skyscraper reflecting the clouds in its windows

Using GPS Technology for Skyscraper Construction

Modern urban development would look very different today without the technological innovation that enabled the construction of skyscrapers. Symbolic of bustling city life, skyscrapers make up some of the world’s most recognisable city skylines. Many of them have become iconic landmarks in their own right. 

This innovation began with the Bessemer Process in the 19th Century, which allowed for the mass production of steel. Then came the rolling mills metalworking technique. This allowed architects and engineers to design and build flexible frames that could be much taller than those used previously. Added to these were safety innovations, such as sprinkler systems. The later emergence of GPS and GNSS technology enabled ever more inventive and ambitious designs.

Growing Cities with Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers have since proved vital for the expansion and growth of cities. They allow more workers and residents to work and live in close proximity, within an infrastructure that provides all necessary utilities. City planners can now maximise space for both commercial and residential needs. Meanwhile, GPS/GNSS technology has revolutionised construction, meaning architects can produce ever more creative and sustainable designs.

The Skyscraper Revolution

The significance of skyscrapers in the revolution of urban landscapes is huge. They play a major role in both urbanisation and addressing population growth. Using relatively small footprints, they create vertical hubs of business and residential spaces. In short, skyscrapers allow cities to expand and meet the needs of growing populations, whilst minimising urban sprawl.

Of course, the construction of skyscrapers comes with many challenges. First and foremost, they must be structurally stable, safe and sustainable. The design and planning process itself also consists of many complex variables, including:

  • Design of the foundations
  • Vertical alignment of the building’s frame
  • Placement of lift shafts 
  • Environmental factors
  • Existing infrastructure
  • Geography and geology

And many more.

Today, architects can rely on advanced engineering techniques such as augmented reality (AR) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) to ensure the stability and safety of their designs. Meanwhile, geospatial technology, such as GPS/GNSS, provides real-time data updates. This means increased precision at every stage, from setting out to actual construction.

How Does GNSS Technology Work?

GNSS technology consists of two main components:

  • Satellites orbiting the Earth which track the longitude, latitude and altitude of a device, and transmit positioning and timing data.
  • GNSS signal receivers which interpret the signals and use the data to determine the location of a device.

The accuracy in positioning and the precision of GPS/GNSS technology is vital to skyscraper construction. 

  • accuracy in positioning refers to the radius of a circle of unknown around the true point. The smaller the radius, the higher the accuracy. 
  • precision represents the frequency at which a receiver can locate a point within that circle of accuracy, or if the circle is centred over the true point.

Global GNSS Technologies

There are four GNSS technologies currently providing global coverage:

  • GPS – the most widely-known GNSS technology in the west, launched by the US government in 1978
  • GLONASS – Russia’s GNSS technology, launched in 1982
  • BeiDou – China’s version, launched in 2000
  • Galileo – launched by the European Union in 2016 and currently used by the European Union Agency for the Space Programme

Other similar technologies exist but consist of fewer satellites and thus are only accurate within their own regions, such as India’s NavIC and Japan’s QZSS.

Skyscraper Foundations and Geodetic Control

One of the most vital aspects of laying skyscraper foundations is establishing an accurate geodetic control network. This network consists of stable and identifiable points with measured data that tie the points together. 

These points can be measured very precisely and quickly using satellite geodesy, which makes it much more efficient than traditional terrestrial surveying. These accurate measurements allow for more precise machine control throughout the project, including during excavation phases, piling, compacting, drilling and bulldozing.

Eliminating Surveying Errors

Traditional surveying methods also have inherent disadvantages compared to GNSS technology. One such disadvantage is the accumulation of errors. GNSS technology eliminates this, maintaining reliable accuracy and precision throughout the planning and foundation-laying processes.

This reliability of accuracy provided by GNSS enables both a high-precision layout of skyscraper foundations and exact alignment in vertical construction. This latter aspect is crucial when it comes to the design and construction of elevator shafts and skyscraper cores.

Elevator Shafts, Verticality and GNSS

Accurate vertical alignment is necessary for the safe construction of skyscrapers, and GNSS technology is ideal for maintaining it. It is particularly important for the design and construction of elevator shafts and skyscraper cores. This is because the high precision ensures not only the stability of the structure but also the ongoing functionality of the inner workings of the building.

GNSS technology removes a lot of the human error which can contribute to construction problems. The data is not at the mercy of one individual’s competency and will remain accurate throughout the project by making any necessary corrections along the way.

Building under construction with cranes and a flock of birds above it

Precise Crane Operations and Safety

One major construction safety concern involves the deployment of cranes. Precision crane operations are vital as the consequences of poor crane positioning can be catastrophic. It is therefore necessary to use the latest technological developments to ensure that all cranes are positioned safely and efficiently. Examples include:

  • Load management – identifying when materials and equipment should be moved, and where they should be moved to.
  • Risk identification – constantly changing environments, unstable terrain, personnel and the size and movement of cranes can all create potential risks.
  • Cost management – getting cranes positioned incorrectly can delay a project, costing time and money.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) Integration

BIM systems are first used in the planning of a construction project, and can be continually referred to until the project’s completion. BIM provides a digital representation of the project throughout its various stages, and enables collaboration between architects, engineers, contractors and local authorities.

GNSS technology integrates with a BIM system to ensure every aspect of the project is mapped out accurately. This greatly improves coordination and data sharing in skyscraper construction projects, helping keep the project on target for both time and cost. 

Real-time data updates provided by GNSS integrated with BIM also provide multiple advantages for project management. They highlight design and construction problems early on while allowing clear and concise communication between all parties.

Sustainability and Efficient Urban Growth

As we become more aware of our responsibility towards the care of our shared planet, GNSS technology is contributing to sustainable skyscraper construction by minimising waste and optimising resources. Not only is this better for the environment, but it also provides a better ROI while helping complete the project as quickly as possible.

GNSS integrated with BIM analysis tools can significantly reduce a building’s carbon footprint by optimising energy efficiency. It helps reduce waste which further helps the environment, especially by ensuring there is minimal waste of building materials and other resources.

Today, construction methods are becoming much more precise and efficient thanks to GNSS, and all while lowering costs and saving resources. 


Skyscrapers play a pivotal role in urban development and the efficient and sustainable growth of our cities. We must therefore use the best technology available to make the skyscraper construction process as precise and sustainable as possible. 

GNSS technology is exactly what we need to build high-quality high-rise buildings that are safe and stable, while contributing to the urban beauty of our cities and skylines. Particularly when integrated with BIM, it provides all of the accuracy, reliability and safety that architects and construction workers need, as well as the many professionals and residents who will work and live in your finished project for years to come.

BIM Technology: What Is It? How Does It Work & Why Does It Matter?

BIM is a digital representation and complex system used in the creation and management of a construction project – from start to finish.

It’s become a vital part of construction projects and you’d be hard pushed to find one that doesn’t use BIM, so much so, it’s now a legal requirement for large scale and public builds to use BIM as part of their processes under the UK government Digital Built Britain scheme. This is all in a bid to improve efficiency and quality of the built environment.

BIM effectively coordinates a digital workflow of each aspect of a build. This includes 3D modelling, product and material data and digital structures. 

An acronym for Building Information Modeling or Building Information Management, all manner of workers and individuals involved in a construction project are able to participate and contribute to the BIM management process. 

From architects to engineers, as well as local authorities and contractors, everybody involved collaborates on the model from the design stage, to its approval and construction. 

Notably, the data can be shared and accessed by BIM managers and the client who can use the BIM model and information to make decisions regarding the build. This data and information remains accessible even after construction has been completed. 

In the past, we relied on blueprints and drawings to communicate building plans but this came with a list of disadvantages. It was often difficult to accurately visualise dimensions, record keeping could be an issue, they were easier to lose or damage and there’d also be no audit trail.

CAD (Computer Aided Design) came along to help improve this, allowing drafters and workers to see digital 3D plans. Today, we have BIM, allowing for support and collaboration at every phase of construction.

Key Features of BIM Technology

In short, BIM software works by taking survey data, designs and considerations to create three-dimensional (3D) objects. These objects combine to create a digital building model alongside a digital workflow from field to finish – for everyone from the architect to the contractors, to the building inspector and stakeholders.

The model contains data describing the building materials, the dimensions and the various components of the construction. The data can be converted into 2D drawings, allowing you to create digital workflows from office to site that would have one source of truth and audit trails.

It allows individuals involved – either directly or indirectly – in the construction to gain insight into various aspects of the build seamlessly for maximum efficiency. 

As a result, the data generated can reveal design problems that can be circumnavigated early on by architects and engineers. 

The Benefits of BIM Technology

A question many ask is what are the benefits of using BIM in construction projects?

BIM software comes with a slew of them. Here are some of the many advantages:

Better Collaboration and Communication 

A key benefit of using BIM in a construction project is that it helps facilitate and finetune communication between all professionals involved. 

Everybody is able to clearly see the virtual model of the building, meaning everyone has clear insight into the project and its requirements. A further benefit of this is that it can prevent any misunderstandings arising which in turn helps prevent delays in construction. 

Enhanced Efficiency

The process of creating 2D drawings is significantly expedited using BIM tools. In fact, this is a big part of its appeal: it saves architects and designers a lot of time at the drawing stage. 

Improved Quality Control 

Design and construction problems can be identified early on through digital visualisations of the building. This is a huge time and resource saver and also helps to ensure a high quality project completion. 

Lower Costs

Through early detection of potential problems in the construction project, costly errors can be avoided. 

Quicker Construction Life Cycle

By employing BIM tools, the whole construction process from start to finish can be planned and monitored with close precision, eliminating communication hold-ups and potential delays.

More Sustainable 

A building’s carbon footprint can be brought down significantly by using BIM analysis tools to optimise energy efficiency. 

Types of BIM Software

There is a variety of BIM software on the market with each designed to play a significant role in the overall BIM process. As an authorised Trimble distributor, we focus on the following BIM software:

Let’s take a look at the BIM lifecycle and which phase of the project you might use each piece of software: 

Applications of BIM Technology in Construction

A lot of people wonder what is the purpose of BIM technology? But the answer is varied as it supports a number of processes in the construction journey. Below we’ll discuss some of the key ones.

Design and Visualisation of Building Structures

Using BIM software such as FieldLink and Field Points, and hardware such as laser scanning equipment and total stations, designers, architects and engineers can gather invaluable insight into the intricacies of the site to enable them to create a model for the project. 

Designers can pick from a library of building elements, including windows, doors, plumbing and ventilation, heating and cooling systems as well as things like stairs and elevators, which can be quickly added to the design. These elements are parametric, meaning they can easily be resized and customised to perfectly fit with the project.

They can also assemble photo-realistic renderings which can be presented to stakeholders or clients – or indeed used for marketing purposes. Renderings are often very important for giving those concerned a clearer insight into what the end result will be. 

BIM tools can also generate important documents like floor plans and elevations which can be passed on to construction workers.

Construction Project Management and Scheduling

BIM tools such as Trimble Connect, Connect AR and Connect MR can be used to assist in the planning, management and scheduling of a construction project. It can do this by offering smart 3D computer models, which can contribute to the management of survey, design, engineering and building.

Collected site survey data can be input to generate a 3D computer model of a building. 

Architects, engineers and anyone involved in the building process can use the model to plan and collaborate on the construction. 

At the design phase, a digital version of the building will be proposed. This model can be used to test design ideas, the integrity of the structure as well as practical concerns such as energy efficiency and fire safety. 

Once the design and planning phase is completed, BIM can create scheduling and track the ongoing build. 

As the build moves forward, tools like CloudEngine can be used to communicate updates with technical collaborators and non-technical stakeholders through easy to understand modelling and real-time simulations to keep track of progress. 

BIM Data Management and Analysis

3D clash detection also plays a role in construction management. It’s a process whereby contractor’s different models are merged to identify any problems. Other ways are through 4D sequencing and virtual mock-ups which can assess the quality of the construction.

Facility Management and Maintenance

BIM can also provide quantifiable insights valuable to facility management post build. 

For instance, it can tell you a building’s predicted energy expenditure, as well as how much maintenance will cost. It does this in part by providing information about things like the durability of materials and the weather conditions of the site – which provides a clear idea of how often components will need to be repaired or replaced. 

While in the past a balance sheet and other documents might give you some idea of these things, looking at a building model and seeing in detail how those costs will look is much more accurate and easy to put into practice.

What is the future of BIM technology?

BIM offers a number of benefits, meaning it is likely not going anywhere.

Architects, engineers and construction workers stand to benefit from the insight BIM can provide them with, and we will see this digital collaboration via the BIM process continue to develop and be optimised. 

As BIM technology develops, we will also start to see 4D, 5D, 6D and 7D BIM come into the picture.

Additionally, it could play a valuable role in reducing waste in construction. A lot of this waste is due to supply chain errors and having to rebuild or rework problems. The collaborative nature of the BIM environment helps prevent these issues, making such waste less likely to occur in future projects.

Looking to the future, BIM has huge potential and this potential is only just coming into view. With new tools and greater optimisation at every level of building construction, we will likely see far more fine-tuned, enhanced and optimised building processes going forward. 

Efficiency, Accuracy and Collaboration

BIM-enabled construction processes provide greater efficiency, visualisation and collaboration throughout a design and construction project. 

It can assist communication between those involved, including stakeholders and local authorities that will approve planning permission. As a platform, it can help ensure all individuals involved are working towards the same clearly defined construction goal. 

Companies use BIM today due to its value at each and every phase of construction – from its initial design to maintenance of the facility. With analysis tools it can identify areas of improvement and run predictions for how often upkeep and repair will be required. At the time of a building’s completion, it can still provide insight into a building’s operations making it a highly valuable, comprehensive process for construction. 

BuildingPoint UK & Ireland are proud to supply the highest quality Trimble surveying equipment and BIM solutions to the construction industry. 

Our mission is to empower you to measure, map and manage the natural and built environment with ease. If you have any questions about BIM technology and software, or you’d like to hire Trimble survey equipment, our knowledgeable team is always on hand to help, just get in touch