Geo Week News

April 8, 2015

Bridging the Gap


Shaheed Smith is a licensed Land Surveyor in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and principle at SAS Geospatial, LLC. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors Board of Directors and is chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. He is also an associate editor of xyHt magazine.




We can probably agree that in the AEC industry, one of the most prolific uses of the 3D laser scanning technology should be found in the architecture realm. There, retrofits are commonplace and meshing that which is proposed with what already exists takes precision and confidence in the measurements. Yes, the architect whose specialty is the adaptive use of historic structures is the poster child for using 3D laser scanning for that reason.

Yet, oftentimes, it is the architect that least trusts the technology and puts more faith in the distance recorded with a tape measure than a point cloud. That is partly our fault as service providers, but as Julia Ausloos of Architecture Research Group and Carlos Velazquez of Epic Scan explained to the audience last Thursday at SPAR International in Houston, TX, it is something that can be fixed.

“Building Documentation has a huge role in the field of architecture,” Ausloos said. “Nearly 50% of all architecture projects involve existing buildings, therefore involving the documentation of those existing buildings. I know that the 3D documentation industry has been progressively improving and offers tremendous opportunities for architects. But I often feel like those opportunities aren’t fully realized.”

From a service provider’s point of view, there are several obstacles that need to be overcome in order to provide successful services, because as Ausloos said, “it takes only one bad experience for an architecture firm to distrust the technology.” And that distrust affects not just the company providing the service, but the industry as a whole.

The biggest obstacle seems the simplest–working within the guides of a contract that clearly defines the scope and schedule for the service you are providing. When this is clear, you understand what the architect is looking for and they know what to expect from you. When you understand the intent of the project and establish a line of communication between owner, architect and yourself, you can fully deliver a useful product that is easy for the client to work with.

Another obstacle may be convincing the client of the long-term value of the service. The value is this: rather than just getting what is necessary when onsite, you can obtain data that will be useful and will avoid site visits in the future. Also, rather than accepting change orders throughout the projects, these can be reduced or even eliminated and therefore save fees.

Velazquez cited that investing money on the front end of the project to properly prepare a scan of the site may take some convincing. In this fast-paced environment that we tend to work in, it is difficult for many projects managers to take the initial project time and entrust it to a service provider. After all, what if things go awry?

The pair used two case studies to prove their point. One was a situation where neither client nor provider was clear on the intent of the project or what was to be expected from the data. What resulted was a project team that had so little confidence in the final product that they considered it a total loss and didn’t use the data at all.

The second case was deemed a success and touted the importance of having a team eager to share in the technology and displayed an ease of use that allowed the project to run smoothly.

The bottom line is that although many architects are hesitant to explore the technology that 3D scanning has to offer, with a good game plan and a clear understanding of the project requirements you may make believers out of them.

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