3-D Documentation at the Speed of Light

by Jim Smith on June 24, 2015

3-D Documentation at the Speed of LightTechnology is ever-evolving, so engineering and constructions professionals must continuously seek new and better solutions to daily challenges. One such solution — 3-D laser scanning — helps with the time-consuming task of documenting existing project conditions.

While accurate documentation can be a struggle, it’s also vital for success, especially when a project requires critical connection or penetration locations for existing structures, equipment, piping and other elements.

3-D laser scanning is a fast, safe and accurate way to obtain that data. Its use dramatically improves processes and workflows, making tape measures on a job site so last century.

What Is LIDAR?

3-D scanning — often called LIDAR for Light Detection and Ranging — is a remote sensing method that uses light to measure distances and dimensions. The technology has the potential for countless applications. U.S. troops have used it to map difficult terrain in Afghanistan, and the National Ocean Service uses it for things like shoreline mapping, emergency response and coastal vulnerability analysis.

The most common tool of the technology in our industry is the stationary 3-D scanner. Placed in the project environment, it measures the distance of an object’s surface from the scanner and maps the points to a 3-D XYZ coordinate system file called a “point cloud.” Each scan produced is extremely accurate, providing precise measurements to within 2 millimeters.

Why Use 3-D Laser Scanning?

3-D laser scanning captures data quickly and safely with detail and accuracy that traditional tape measures can’t match. Any project with existing construction can benefit from this precision, especially those designed before the advent of CAD modeling. Laser scanning also offers a nonintrusive and valuable option when measuring hazardous or complex objects.

Project managers, engineers and designers can navigate through point cloud data with confidence, trusting that the information is accurate. The benefits extend beyond viewing and measuring. The point cloud can be incorporated into design applications like AutoCAD to improve the overall quality of the design and design documents. With exact existing conditions referenced in your 3-D design model, your new design is more accurate.

Users of these 3-D laser scanners also benefit from reduced design rework and the opportunity for off-site fabrication. The technology is a valuable tool in the continuous management of asset and building information modeling (BIM) data. And it helps enable collaboration between architects, engineers, constructors and owners.

It’s not a matter of if you’ll use laser scans on your projects — it’s a matter of when. Scanning is becoming the standard method — and in some cases the only way — to obtain accurate existing conditions on a project. As an engineering firm or subcontractor, you may not collect the scans, but the owner may provide them to you.

Interested in learning more? I’ll be presenting “ 3-D Documentation at the Speed of Light” at the IDEA Conference at 4:30 p.m. on June 29 in Boston. We’ll discuss the benefits of laser scanning and how to leverage the technology on your next project.

Are you intrigued by the idea of tossing out your tape measure in favor of a high-tech solution? I’d love to hear more about your practical experiences with laser scanning on a job site!

Jim Smith is a senior applications support specialist at Burns & McDonnell, focusing on 3-D design review and collaboration, 3-D modeling, construction sequencing, rendering and animation presentations. Connect with Jim on LinkedIn.


Establishing Layers of Security for Healthcare FacilitiesA healthcare environment should be a safe and secure space, where healthcare professionals, patients and visitors can focus on the important business of healing. A solid security plan helps avoid unwelcome disruptions in healthcare facilities of all sizes, from small clinics to large urban hospitals.

But what does a comprehensive approach to security for healthcare facilities look like? This guide to sound precautions can help you find a path to your facility’s security plan.

Starting with the Proper Perimeter

Properties open to the general public are generally more challenging to secure. Establishing a proper perimeter and defining the visitor experience are good first steps. Signs are a simple and inexpensive way to guide visitors to the proper areas for patient drop-off, visitor parking and access to the emergency department.

Requiring visitors to take a ticket when entering a parking area, even when they are not required to pay, establishes a semi-private area in the view of the public. Electronic surveillance can reinforce a security presence, with cameras positioned to offer overall views of the site with sufficient resolution to identify a person if needed.

Using Access Control to Establish Layers of Security

Other than designated public entrances, all exterior doors should be either protected by access control or locked and monitored at all times. Even main public entrances may be locked after a certain hour and remotely unlocked by security.

Access control can establish varying layers of security within your facility.

  • Emergency treatment areas: As an area of higher risk, the emergency department perimeter should include access control at all entries. These systems may be programmed with a department lockdown function.
  • Staff-only areas: Access control can help segregate generally accessible public and patient areas from staff-only areas. It is most frequently applied to such areas as nursing offices, locker rooms and research laboratories.
  • Highly sensitive areas: In such spaces as pharmacies, narcotic drug storage, IT network areas and personal health information storage, access control restricts entry to authorized individuals. Vendors should be accompanied by a staff member at all times. Alternatively, vendors and their equipment must be segregated by a wall and door or a chain-link fence and gate.
  • Infant areas: Infant protection systems provide another level of security through radio-frequency identification tags placed on an infant right after birth. These tags have skin and tamper sensors that sound an alarm if removed or cut. The system can be integrated with facility management so an elevator car will not leave the floor if an infant tag is detected within.

Having a good prescription for security at your healthcare facility yields the proverbial pound of cure. What does your facility’s plan look like? Are there precautions you want to learn more about? Share your comments below or send me an email with your experience with healthcare facility security!

Shawn Whalen is a senior electrical engineer at Burns & McDonnell with an emphasis on the design of telecommunications and security systems for facilities and critical infrastructure sites. Connect with Shawn on LinkedIn.


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Students Gain Experience with Wastewater Treatment Plant Design Challenge

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