Use Case: Design-Build

Design-build firms are our largest customer groups, and we’ve seen strong and consistent traction within this category. Read our case study on Lotus Construction Group to see how one design-build firm benefits from using Canvas. Or watch our recent webinar with The Build Show Network to learn more.

Parallelizing A Complicated Project

Design-build firms are particularly notable in the home improvement industry for being “vertically integrated” as a one-stop-shop, but that also means they tend to care a ton about quality and efficiency at every step in the process. It also means that they tend to be in the driver’s seat of their project, touching a home dozens of times for totally different reasons as the scope or focus changes (planned or unplanned). Without Canvas, you might not get a 3D model of the property until Week 4 or 5 of a project, until you’ve solidified the project to the point that it makes sense to do a full site survey and create as-built documentation. That could mean a full month (or longer) where design is limited, if not entirely blocked.

With Canvas, we typically see design-build firms scan the subject property in Week 1, if not before the project even kicks off (to do spec work). This means that they get a design-ready 3D model within a few days of project kick-off, and they can parallelize the design process with the client alongside other early-stage work. That parallelization allows you to short-circuit questions that typically don’t come up until month 2 of the project, like:

  1. “You know, now that I’m looking at this, I really think it’s probably better to keep the dining room separated instead of doing a totally open floor plan.”
  2. “Oh, if finishing the entire basement is going to cost that much, maybe we can just focus on the part by the stairs to entertain guests.”
  3. “I had an idea after looking at your design. Instead of adding a whole new addition to the house for my in-laws, why don’t we just finish the basement into an actual studio or something?”

All of these have massive implications on how you might approach a project. Using Canvas, design-build firms can move design, pricing, estimation, etc. to the very front of the project and shave weeks, if not months off of the total project lifecycle.

Basically, imagine if you could jump right to this for every single one of your projects:

How would that change your business? If you’re like the customers we’ve been serving so far, the answer is likely shortened project cycles and happier customers.


Most design-build firms we have worked with use AutoCAD, SketchUp, Revit, or a combination of all three for different parts of the project. All three programs are supported, but you can learn more here: What file formats and programs does Scan To CAD export?

Many design-build customers ask if Canvas supports BIM, or "Scan To BIM" workflows, and the answer is yes! When you choose Revit as your output format from Scan To CAD, you will receive a .rvt file targeted at a LOD 200 specification, and you will be able to take advantage of Revit's many benefits as BIM software, such as using the same model to generate construction documentation. 

You can learn more about how Canvas interoperates with these programs here.

Carrying The Model Through Construction

Across the case studies we’ve run with customers out in the field, we see that most measurements fall within 1-2% of what is verified manually with a tape measure, laser range-finder, or existing blueprint. This makes Canvas a powerful tool for design and other early parts of the project, but there are several critical measurements for which you might need tighter tolerances.

We have typically seen this addressed in a few different ways with design-build customers:

  1. Use the Canvas-generated model through the design, pricing, and planning, and then update the model as more precise measurements are demanded for certain kinds of jobs (like ordering cabinets).
  2. Supplement the Canvas scan with manual measurements for specific dimensions taken at the same time. You can then adjust the CAD model you receive back from Scan To CAD to match your critical dimensions exactly.
  3. Use the Canvas-generated model through the early phases of design, pricing, and planning, and then do a traditional as-built later.

We think #1 and #2 are much more efficient, but it does seem to be the case that for many firms the ROI of getting that design-ready model earlier is so high that it pays for itself even if they start over later.

Further Reading:

As a design-build firm, you may also be interested in checking out:

  1. Sample Data - Scan To CAD output generated from real-world projects
  2. Lotus Construction Group case study
  3. McManus Kitchen & Bath case study
  4. What kind of accuracy can I expect from Canvas?
  5. What device should I use with Canvas?
  6. Watch Canvas in action on "This Old House"