Beam me up, Scotty! Laser Scanning Shapes Construction Models

August 25, 2016

Over the last decade, virtual design and construction has changed the construction industry drastically, improving our accuracy, efficiency, and quality of work. Laser scanning, though not a new technology, is the latest application to emerge as a game changer for our industry.

Laser scanning captures everything visible on an existing site: every wall, every door, every curb, gutter, and width or height measurement. If you can see it, the scanner can detect it and push it into a virtual model with pinpoint accuracy. This information can be used as the base for modeling a project or as the verified as-built model for an ongoing or completed project.

Atlanta Ronald McDonald House

Peachtree-Dunwoody Ronald McDonald House

Over the last several years, Brasfield & Gorrie has invested heavily in laser-scanning technology, purchasing multiple scanners and bringing the process in-house. Equipped with laser scanners, our teams can gather detailed information to prepare for construction, to capture milestones during construction, to verify quality and precision of work in place, and to deliver the most accurate as-built documents.

Using laser scanning for quality assurance has improved our ability to ensure that our work is exact. On a recently completed proton therapy facility, Brasfield & Gorrie poured massive concrete pads designed to hold multimillion-dollar medical equipment that must operate on completely flat surfaces in order to function properly. As a result, the flatness of the concrete floors was essential.

Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Tree House Model

Peachtree-Dunwoody Ronald McDonald House Treehouse Model

We used laser scanning to detect the flatness of the slab from one end of the pour to the other, sometimes upwards of 200 feet across. Laser scanning allowed us to identify dips in the concrete, changes in depth, and even slight slants. With this information, we were able to level the floor to perfection prior to installation of machinery.

Perhaps one of our most interesting applications to date was at the Peachtree-Dunwoody Atlanta Ronald McDonald House. After the project had already begun, the client was able to enhance the design with a grand treehouse, equipped with an operating elevator, in the center of the new facility’s lobby. Using the treehouse fabricator’s model, we coordinated openings for relevant systems and access and then needed to verify that this giant feature piece would work within the constraints of the already-built lobby. Likewise, the client wanted to understand the fit, design, look, and feel inside of what would quickly become a very tight space.

Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Tree House

Peachtree-Dunwoody Ronald McDonald House Treehouse

To accommodate this request, we laser scanned the lobby after the steel for the elevator shaft was installed. Then, we overlaid the treehouse model onto the laser scan model, creating a virtual depiction of what the finished space would look like and confirming that all systems and access points were correctly coordinated. This process allowed us to make important modifications to the treehouse design, including rail height changes and fire sprinkler details. This final review helped us polish the treehouse design and ensure its accurate prefabrication. We also scanned the space after the treehouse was fully installed to confirm the accuracy and quality of the work and provide the owner with true as-built documents.

Ultimately, laser scanning techniques allow us to bridge the gap between design and reality. We are able to confirm everything from existing conditions to work in place and make certain that our computer records—that is, the model—represent what is in the field and vice versa. “Capturing reality” in this way, from the outset of the project to its full completion, enables us to build the highest quality products while simultaneously providing clients with accurate, detailed data for future use.

Video: Laser Scan of Peachtree-Dunwoody Ronald McDonald House Treehouse