On November 8th I presented at Architecture Exchange East, the conference of the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Richmond, VA about how laser scanning has benefitted me. The conference brought together a diverseF group of speakers who touched on everything from designing in under-resourced environments, to copyright in architecture, to achieving resiliency through design, to our topic!
I followed that up with a presentation at Autodesk University (AU) on November 15th. For those of you that don’t know, AU draws over 11,000 people from across the AEC+ industry to Las Vegas for a series of workshops over the course of a week.
Both were a lot of fun—and a lot of work to prepare for!—and I left feeling energized, and having learned a lot more about this topic.
I thought I would use this post to “zoom out” for a moment to discuss the benefits of laser scanning. As you know, I think there are many, but I’m going to focus on what I see as “The Big 4.”
It goes without saying that laser scanning is accurate. I learned recently that the BLK360 is accurate to within 8mm at a range 20m.
On the first project I scanned, the discrepancy between the “as-built” drawings the client gave me and the scan I did was six inches. If the project was an airport, this difference could’ve been permissible, but in a 1,000 sqft retail space, it’s not. I’ve found that a few inches of discrepancy is the most insidious kind because when you’re surveying with a measuring tape you can convince yourself that the tape was crooked and “the drawings are probably right.” In this project, that degree of inaccuracy would have been devastating because the construction schedule was 12 weeks long, the millwork was being built off-site over the course of ten weeks, and then brought to site and put in place at the end. If the dimensions were wrong, the schedule would not have allowed us to try again.
Starting with accurate existing conditions drawings is the foundation to a smooth construction project. I cannot count the number of times—pre-BLK360—that I’ve had to deal with substantial re-designs mid-construction because of poor base conditions information. Inaccuracy at the start leads to: increased costs for the client, increased time/cost for the designer, material waste, added stress, etc, etc.
Client plan in red, as-scanned in blue. This small decrepency could have lead to major problems.
As Architects, there are times when we need to give clients hard evidence that an idea they have won’t work. It’s not because we’re being difficult, it’s because it doesn’t fit. In the past, I’ve relied on a combination of photos and orthographic drawings: “As you can see in this photo, there’s a duct there, and when you look at the section drawing, we’re showing that duct here, and so, it doesn’t fit.” The problem with this approach is that it requires the client to make connections between two discrete pieces of evidence and to trust that you’re not manipulating the data in the drawing. With a point cloud, you can extract drawings that blend these two types of information, and because it's so accurate, clients see it as indisputable proof.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve returned to the office after measuring a site and realized that I missed a critical dimension. With the BLK360 workflow, that doesn’t happen. Furthermore, every time a client or consultant asks, “Are you sure that’ll fit? I thought there was a big beam there?,” I can toggle the point cloud back on (in Revit) and make sure that I didn’t miss something.
Because we have so many responsibilities as Architects (and other building professionals too!) it’s easy to miss key things when we’re on site. Having a perfect, thorough scan of the space is not only an amazing place to start, it’s also an amazing resource to return to as the project progresses.
That’s me in Adisge, Ethiopia! A when it would’ve been hard (and costly) to go back to the site to measure.
When I heard about point clouds my first thought was, “I’m not a tech-person. That’ll be a nice thing for the people who are!” I was imagining a complex process of stitching together each point; something akin to “Photomerge” in Photoshop, but on the order of thousands of points. It made me feel tired.
In reality, it’s automated! As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, when you use the BLK360 with ReCap on the iPad, the scans register as you go. In the few cases where it has low confidence about merging the scans, you can select two scans and pick three similar points in each.
I mention this because I’m sure many of you are similar to me, and I honestly feel that if I can do it, anyone can.
The scans register as you go as seen in the “Map View” of Recap Pro on the iPad.
In terms of benefits, these are the "Big 4" I've noticed while working with the BLK360. It's allowed me to work more efficiently, more accurately, and more confidently: I'm for it!
Next time I’ll walk through the process of cleaning up a scan in ReCap. In the meantime, I’d love to know what all of you see as the benefits of using the BLK360; let me know in the comments below!