Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reality capture & Why does laser scanning matter?

Haven't posted for a while, but wanted to capture my thoughts on a recent project we did where we were looking to accurately "capture" information about an existing lobby space. The project was a tenant improvement project in a four story building lobby, where the goals of the effort were to accurately gather data about what actually existed in the space, in lieu of relying on traditional as-built reference documentation, which is often outdated or rarely updated. The other effort we were looking to eliminate was the amount of effort we typically would put into in-field verification efforts. As a team, we discussed the options and laser scanning seemed to be the most viable, both from the perspective of speed to capture and the high degree of accuracy as a product.

Laser scanning an occupied facility had its own challenges, but what came out of it as a result was pretty remarkable. The last time I had looked at laser scanning technology was over two years ago and I was absolutely blown away by how far the tools and software had come since then. In less than three hours we had completed the hi-res laser scan of the lobby space. Within the laser scanning software, (this laser scanner was a FARO scanner) we were able to isolate and assign faces and model elements to the point cloud data. In turn, the composite of all of the faces and geometry showed deviation from the original plans in many significant areas. One of them being the mullion spacing at the curtain wall which would have proved costly in the field. Another aspect of this effort that I was impressed with was the openness from this team to use the laser scan data. In my experience on other teams without laser scanning, each entity did what they felt needed to be done to capture any as-built conditions and then began designing from that.

With laser scanning the equation was quite the opposite and we have seen a number of project stakeholders step up and request the laser scan files and models. Some of these were a bit of light bulb moments for me as the mechanical engineer wanted to see where supply and diffuser vents were currently located, the electrical engineer wished to see the height of the custom lighting that was suspended from the four story atrium to better inform their lighting design and the subcontractor responsible for the glass guardrail installation performed his takeoff directly from the laser scanning software environment. Couldn't find a good link to the FARO viewer, but here is Leica's (http://hds.leica-geosystems.com/downloads123/hds/hds/cyclone/brochures-datasheet/Cyclone_PUBLISHER_TruView_DS_us.pdf )

Lastly, when we presented the scan to the owner the tool had layered on top of the point cloud file hi-res photos that reminded me very much of what it was like to navigate in BIM. One of the main differences was the ability to measure, in the software. As we were navigating we were able to measure distances with a high degree of accuracy as essentially we were just measuring from one point to another.

Needless to say, it was great getting to be a part of this effort and fascinating to see how far this technology has come in such a small amount of time. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next two years holds in this space.