An Architect Explores 3D Laser Scanning
With Leica’s BLK360
Kyle Barker has more than ten years experience as an architect and designer. His expertise includes architecture, interior design & graphic design. He has worked on multi-family housing, commercial & institutional work, and publications. As a Project Architect at Merge Architects, Kyle is applying 3D laser scanning to capture existing conditions and increase the accuracy of the firm’s drawing sets.
Prior to joining Merge, Kyle was a designer & project manager at MASS Design Group where he led projects in the US and Rwanda. Before that, he was a Designer at Kennedy and Violich Architecture, where he was the team lead for Soft City, the firm’s entry in Ecological Urbanism at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
Kyle is a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Boston Society of Architects. He earned a Master of Architecture degree from MIT and a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design from the University of Cincinnati. He has taught at MIT and the Boston Architectural College and served on juries for Architizer and the Boston Society of Architects.
I’m very excited to get started with the BLK360, Leica’s first lightweight imaging laser scanner. I’m hoping my computer, a 2014 Macbook Pro with Bootcamp, can keep up with the data!
Impact on the AEC Industry
My goal for working with the BLK360 is to use it as a tool to simplify the process of verifying the existing conditions at the outset of a project. I’m looking for something that saves me time and gives me peace of mind. (I’m sure you’ve had the experience of missing a critical dimension, but only realizing it after you’ve driven or flown back to your office).
It feels like every year, our clients are pushing us to accelerate our project schedules. Having a tool that would both expedite the process and increase the accuracy of documenting site conditions would have a huge impact on our industry. Speeding up some of the time-intensive aspects of the information gathering phase would allow us to spend more time on the part all architect’s love: the design.
One of the aspects of architecture that I love is the diversity of skills an architect has to learn in order to stay relevant. In the span of a few decades the field has gone from hand-drafting, to computer-aided drafting, to building-information modeling. Each of these transitions represents a new set of hard skills to master and, perhaps more significantly, a new conceptual framework through which to view the creation of architecture. I see the BLK360 as a tool that’s likely a part of the next paradigm shift in architecture, which at this point, I can only imagine.
Like any new technology, I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but I look forward to sharing my experiences, frustrations, tips and progress in working with the BLK360 and the point cloud data. My first post will be about using it to scan a commercial interior, but I welcome any questions, thoughts and ideas for upcoming scan suggestions!
My First Scan
My first time working with the BLK360 on site was fun. The entire visit took less than an hour! Typically, I’d go there with my measuring tape and laser, a print out of the space, a camera, and one of the interns. We’d stress out for about two hours to make sure that we captured everything, but then we’d get back to the office, begin drawing the space, and realize that we missed a critical dimension (and would then spend the rest of the afternoon trying to remember trig and crossing our fingers). This time, I only needed to take six scans total, which was a pleasant surprise. I did four inside the space, one in the doorway and one from the outside. It was interesting that in the outdoor scan, the BLK360 captured the neighboring buildings, which was kind of incredible because some of them were about 100 feet away!
For my first time scanning, I wanted to start with something small. I had just started a new job with a young retailer in the midst of a national rollout, who had a 1,200 square foot storefront with 20-foot ceilings.
Because it was my first time using the BLK360, I wasn’t sure how many scans I would need to take, if it would be able to capture the height of the space, and if there would be adequate light (the space didn’t have any lights yet, and the windows were temporarily blacked out).
The Nitty Gritty
Once I pressed the button on the iPad to initiate the scan, the BLK 360 did a spin to capture the HDR photos. I used HDR since the space was so dark. It took longer than the standard setting would have, but it was worth it because it captured the detail of the space. Next it did another, faster spin to capture the point cloud scan. Once it had done that, the iPad notified me that the scan was finished and was being transferred to the iPad. At this point, I was able to relocate the scanner, and start the next scan.
While the BLK360 was working on the second scan, I was able to view the previous scan. As I scanned more locations, it stitched them together so that I could start to gain a picture of the overall space. At any point you can either view the space from the scanner’s point of view, or you can view it as a plan. I find the plan view helpful for determining overall coverage. As I had pointed out in my previous post, this workflow is amazing because it removes the “did I get everything?” worry from the site visit. It also lets you pull dimensions and leave location specific text notes in the file, which I found helpful in communicating with my team and as general reminders.
Next time I’ll talk about my experience indexing the scan and bringing it into Revit to build the base model.