ARTICLE

3D Scanning: A Safe and Effective Solution

Safety, time and money. These are all top-of-mind factors for property owners when trying to determine what improvements are needed for a failing building or structure.

A safe and effective way to better understand existing conditions is utilizing 3D scanning.

How It Works

A 3D scan is obtained by our trained survey technicians utilizing Trimble scanning equipment, producing a point cloud that is analyzed in Trimble Business Center (TBC). The combination of the scan and software can determine existing conditions of the building, both mechanically and structurally, and provide accurate locations where building improvements are needed. 

Advantages

There are many advantages to utilizing 3D scanning prior to making improvements to your building or other structure. Some of these include:

  • It’s safe. Scans can be taken several stories in the air and keep survey technicians safely on the ground.
  • It saves time and money. Depending on the project size, scans can be performed in a day or two compared to conventional survey techniques which may take multiple days. And, it doesn’t require scaffolding or ladders.
  • It puts a picture behind the scan that captures current photographs and 3D modeling.
  • It captures thousands of data points to create surfaces that engineers can utilize to make accurate measurements in their CAD file/drawing.

Applications

3D scanning can be performed on nearly any hard-surface building or structure. Some of the types of projects we’ve applied this method to include: 

  • Bridges: 3D scans are most often used to obtain measurements. For example, we recently performed a scan of the historic Keystone Bridge in Elkader, Iowa. With 3D scanning, we were able to document the historic arches and identify the depths to run utilities. During design, the scans were used for measurements of the limestone block size and hydraulic openings.
  • Buildings & Walls: 3D scans can look for structural deficiencies and movement over time. This might include an initial scan, as well as a scan—at a later date—to document sinking, tipping, etc.
  • Tunnels: 3D scans gather accurate measurements for equipment, tunnel dimensions, access points and structural support members.
  • Pavements/Parking Lots: 3D scans provide measurements of existing site conditions, such as parking lots, curb and gutter, building doors and window locations.
3D scan of Historic Keystone Bridge in Elkader, Iowa
3D scan of Historic Keystone Bridge in Elkader, Iowa

Delivering Solutions

Another example of a recent 3D scanning project our survey crew performed was for the 100+ year old First Congregational Church UCC in Dubuque, Iowa. The interior and exterior were both scanned. From those scans, we were able to determine how the building lines and roof lines shifted over the years. 

Working with that information, our structural engineers provided an efficient engineering solution to stabilize the structure and make the necessary improvements. 

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Are you interested in learning more? I can help you determine if 3D scanning is a good fit for your project needs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Craig Geiser, PLS is Team Leader for Origin Design's Land Survey Team, and he also serves on the company's Board of Directors. His experience includes preparation of boundary surveys, topographic surveys, alta surveys, construction staking and determination of proposed and existing right-of-way. He has worked on various projects requiring the interpretation of deeds and descriptions, and how this relates to specific state codes and laws.

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