Five BIM Predictions in 2015

Building information modeling has become an integral part of the way many construction firms do business. More and more contractors are seeing the benefits and value of BIM and using it to take a more proactive approach to construction.

Here are some of the exciting things happening in BIM you should expect to see throughout 2015 and beyond…

1. BIM is Here to Stay

Today, virtually every large construction firm has a BIM department in-house and even most medium-sized firms either have BIM departments or are in the process of getting one. This trend will continue this year.

New software has made it easier for field teams to extract information from the field and drop it into 3D models to accurately reflect real-world conditions. The result is more accurate models and a more efficient process with less rework overall.

“Once all of the big construction firms are using BIM, all of the mid-tier firms will start using it. The big architectural firms already use it so the smaller firms who want to work with them will also have to have it,” said Tate Jones, owner of LandAir Surveying Company, one of Atlanta’s top five surveying companies. “That migration will continue – similar to the migration from hand drawings to CAD. In five years, there will be very few firms who don’t use BIM.”

For most, the first step in BIM adoption is model coordination. As a next step, firms will extend BIM to include laser scanning before and during construction, as well as total station layout during construction.

Read the full article here in Leica Geosystem’s BIM Learning Center…

Getting a good estimate on laser scanning: What you need to know

When it comes to getting an accurate estimate on laser scanning services, it’s all in the details. The more detailed information you can provide vendors upfront, the more accurate your estimate will be.

What kind of information do vendors need?

Floor plans of the site and photographs. This will go a long way in getting vendors the information they need to provide you with an accurate estimate rather than just a “high guess” because they’re not sure what they are scanning.

“Character” photographs. These photographs can show a few strategic shots, which are better than simply saying, “It’s an MEP room,” (though it’s really 40-feet tall). If possible, show examples of density.

Video walk-through of the site with a smart phone, complete with narration. This is extremely valuable to vendors to get a clear idea of the scope of the project.

Accurate information on the site and work conditions. This includes extenuating circumstances such as crews only being able to work between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM, heavy factory work around the clock, extreme temperatures, mandatory safety training, difficult travel conditions (ex: 200 miles from the airport in “Nowhere, USA”), travel expenses not included in estimate, or dangerous site conditions like confined space entry that require special training.

For the best and most accurate price, be upfront and give providers a good idea of what they are getting into, including:

  • Travel to and from site. Include air travel, luggage, rental car, hotel and location.
  • Time on site. This is determined by how long it takes to begin work once crews get to the front gate and the available work hours. (Is it 4-6 hours max or 12 hours?)
  • Work conditions. High-density projects take longer. Lots of vibration slows down the scanning process.
  • Highly reflective material is very difficult to scan (ex: mirror glass, chrome pipes, shiny objects).
  • Heavy foot traffic (mall), loading traffic (fork lifts), or plant process (moving machinery) can complicate the project.
  • Dangerous conditions usually slow scanning, but crews can still perform and scan in sub-surface pipes or tunnels, interstate bridges and heavy construction zones.
  • Night work only always takes longer and increases the difficulty.

Other pricing considerations include the expected deliverables from the job and the level of detail you need, which software package you want data delivered in (some are faster than others), how complex the environment and large the site, and if additional trips are required back to the site.

Remember: though scanning may only take a week or less, modeling can take a month, as it is still not automated.

Most scan projects are too big to e-mail, so you can expect to receive the full deliverable on an external hard drive. Raw point cloud data can reach “gigabyte size,” though finished models and 3D data sets are typically much smaller.


Tate Jones has over 40 years of experience in land and aerial surveying and was one of the country’s earliest adopters of 3D laser scanning technology. A nationally recognized expert in the field of 3D data capture, he has worked with hundreds of clients in the engineering, architectural and construction industries. Contact him at or visit

Our 25 Hours in Haiti

The alarm was set for 4:00 AM. It was going to be a long day.

The mission was to travel to Haiti to survey space for a new community kitchen. The existing kitchen feeds some 1,400 children each day their only meal, which most days is no more than beans and rice. They are the lucky ones. Many children in the area receive only “mud cookies,” which is exactly what you are imagining.

Several Atlanta-area churches joined together to build a new, bigger kitchen in Port au Prince that can feed as many as 10,000 people. They enlisted the help of LandAir Surveying and Paul Gresham, an architect who works with Chick-fil-a and a member of one of the involved churches, to create a base map for the master construction plan.

I made the trip to Haiti with Allen Nobles, president of Nobles Consulting Group in Tallahassee, Florida. We have been friends for many years and have worked together on projects all over the country – but nothing quite like this.

The plan was to scan the entire site consisting of an existing one-story school, an old building housing the existing kitchen, the future kitchen site, and a church and the campus walls around it. The existing kitchen has no running water and the sewer system is merely a pipe that goes through the wall to a creek out back. By Haitian standards, this is state of the art.

To further complicate matters, this is a particularly scary part of Port au Prince with a high crime rate. People are poor. Tourists have been kidnapped. Dysentery, yellow fever, malaria and cholera plague the area and the roads are full of potholes.

As we made our way through back roads crowded with cars and children, we finally arrived at the front gate of the school where the new kitchen will be built. Our van pulled into the tight driveway and the driver blew his horn, a sign for the guards to open the gate.

Once inside, we joined Paul, Pastor Vincent – the school’s headmaster – and a local architect assigned to help with the project.

Preparing to scan

Paul provided a general idea of what he needed for the design team. The school’s campus consists of a single story school building approximately 300-feet long divided into 10 classrooms. On one side of the campus is a large church that also serves as a meeting room.

In the center of the campus is a large building that is to be demolished. It houses a kitchen that is approximately 20-feet by 25-feet. The cooking equipment consists of some large bowls and pans used for both cooking and washing the dishes. The stove is simply six propane burners. This small kitchen serves 1,400 meals a day to the students and local children.

The goal was to produce a map of the campus and get enough information on the existing school so that a second floor could be added. Paul and his design team would prepare a master plan for future development, but their top priority was building a very large and modern kitchen capable of feeding 10,000 people daily.

When we decided to go on this trip, we knew we didn’t have a lot of time, so we built our equipment for lightness and mobility. It’s not easy to get all of the survey equipment you need into to backpacks and two small carry-on bags. You have to be creative and decide what you want, but take what you need.

Among that equipment was a Focus scanner and supporting equipment along with a small level, rulers, and a miniature tripod that folded up to 23-inches but expanded to about 65-inches. Allen also brought along some very handy paper targets with numbers and lead weights to hold them and a series of globes that cost around $5 each.

We had a two-minute project meeting with the architect and then taped-up 8-10 paper targets in the main area and started scanning with the Focus. Then we taped about 60 targets around the campus on the sides of the buildings, constantly moving the globes ahead of us and using the lead targets.

Once we had completed scanning the campus and buildings, we moved on to the roof.

View from the roof!

When you’re working inside the campus gates, you forget where you are. But when you are on the roof, it all comes back. Not 15-feet away, we could see a small alley filled with families and kids. Even though they were too poor to eat, they would look up at us and smile and laugh. They were very excited to see something different.

From the roof, there is also a clear view of the “river,” which is nothing more than the local sewer system run-off covered in garbage. Hogs, goats, and cows graze alongside it.

The trip also included a trek to New Life Children’s Home, an orphanage and oasis owned by a local woman named Miriam who had once found Pastor Vincent as a very small child, almost dead from starvation. She took him in and nurtured him back to health. He ended up going to college in Tennessee and returning to Haiti to start several schools and orphanages there.

The orphanage, which houses close to 100 children, has running water, bathrooms, electricity, clean bedrooms and many of the comforts of home. The electricity is run by generators and turned off at night to save energy.

After dinner, Paul asked us to look at a few of the buildings on campus to see if they could be scanned and documented. We did a quick assessment of what could be done given their tight timeframe and decided to scan one of the bigger, more complicated buildings first thing the next morning.

When all of the scans of the buildings and school were complete, Pastor Vince took us on a tour of the impoverished surrounding area known as Destiny Village.

I took a lot of pictures and some video on my iPhone, but after a while, you feel bad documenting the poverty surrounding you and realize how little they have, need or want.

What my household throws away in a week would feed two or three families.

Headed home

After clearing customs at the airport and heading back to Miami, Allen and I went our separate ways. But the 25 hours we spent in Haiti will stay with us forever.

I’m glad we were able to use scanning technology in Haiti as there is no better, faster or more precise way to document data. But the scanning was the easy part.

The hardest part was seeing how these people live and the difference between our lives and theirs. We know we can’t save all kids displaced by earthquakes, hurricanes, and dishonest dictators and government corruption in Haiti. But if the kitchen gets built and the kids get fed, we may have helped to save a few. That was worth 25 hours in Haiti.

Tate Jones and Allen Nobles have been friends in the surveying business since 2007. Tate is the president and owner of LandAir Surveying Company, based in Roswell, Georgia. Allen is president and owner of Nobles Consulting Group, based in Tallahassee, Florida. Together, they have worked on projects all over America and generally share resources and technical expertise. To learn more, visit and


3D Laser Survey: The new industry benchmark

Having just turned 60 years-old, I hit one of the major benchmarks in life.

When I was younger, I can remember thinking 30 was as old as you could ever get. Time changes the way we think about things.

I started my business in 1988 and still enjoy running our firm 25 years later. I have lived through the changes from ink on Mylar to Cad drawings, the introduction of GPS and the effect the internet has had on all of our lives. The latest change in the engineering world is the natural progression from 2D plans to 3D deliverables.

In 2005, when we started collecting data with high definition lasers, we were on the cutting edge. Today, this method is becoming even more mainstream.

Most of the sales we made in those first years required us to collect data in 3D and turn it into a 2D AutoCAD or Micro station deliverable. Today, probably 15-20% of our clients just ask for the “point cloud” data and use software that is written for their design and construction needs, making the information much more user friendly. How the industry has changed.

For many decades, we went out and surveyed roads the same way using digital survey equipment. While we still use traditional GPS and total stations, we incorporate 3D laser scanning more and more.

We were on teams that won some of the intersection projects north of Atlanta on I-85. On all of these projects, we scanned the roads, ramps, bridges and main line. Why? Because safety is always #1. Our surveyors don’t go into traffic or stand by the road unless there is no other way to do the job.

We were also able to produce very precise useable bridge data in a relatively short timeframe, which allowed our clients to begin preliminary planning. Another benefit is that the free point cloud viewer that comes with every project allows the client to visit the site, make precise measurements, and view the project in 360-degree photography without leaving their desks.

Nothing is more valuable than a site walk, but trying to remember if there were four light poles or six at a crucial intersection can be solved instantly with the click of mouse. Micro Station, AutoCAD and Revit now have programs that can import 3D survey data directly into the design file, which is a very big advantage for designers.

Structural Elements
In 1978, I was asked to survey the interior of Lenox Mall in Atlanta and produce an as-built for a structural survey. We used a steel chain and offset lines and it took many days to document simple column lines.

Now we can capture and document the most extreme and difficult data in just a few hours. We regularly use laser scanners to document wall failures, roof collapses, and to certify that massive complex structures are build per the design drawings.

Imagine having to perform a complex as-built survey of something like the Georgian Dome without a laser scan. It would be unthinkable! Likewise, engineering for tank farms and pipe transfer areas are much easier to document with a scanner.

Today, more and more clients are asking for a “laser survey” and then importing the registered point cloud data to begin designing the “fix.” As a result, travel expenses are roughly one third of what they were before.

New Greenfield architectural as-builts are required and one day in the not too distant future they will require a laser scan point cloud to document the final conditions.

The real advantage in the 3D world is when you can scan older buildings that are not uniform and not consistent prior to construction and find all of the asymmetrical areas that will give a contractor and owner fits when construction begins.

For many reasons, we are documenting existing conditions in older buildings and in some cases they have very nice architectural features built by real artisans that we are able to capture to give the client a much clearer picture of what is there.

Older buildings have sagging floors, walls with varying thicknesses, and sometimes no interior air-conditioning or duct works. These are all areas where 3D technology is the only way to fly.

MEP Energy and Complex Plumbing
We call these highly complex environments. The original laser scanner was invented to map oil platforms and massively large refineries so that engineers could document and design the required elements correctly.

Unfortunately, there was no other way to do this. Weekly, I talk to clients who make 4-6 trips to jobs to check and recheck hand measured structures. Good news: there is no reason to do this ever again! Using a laser scanner is cheaper, faster and more accurate and once you capture the data, you have it forever. There is no better tool.

In this field, “smart point clouds” have turned from a dream to a reality. There are now programs that can automatically turn a point cloud into a series of pipes. Though it is not perfect yet, it is so much better than what was available in the past. The time it takes to model a pipe room is one third the time it took five years ago.

Most serious pipe designers are requesting laser scans on large projects. The new software models and performs clash detection and can export the data into many mainstream Cad platforms. This is now considered an industry best practice.

Low-tech Solutions
When we began in 2005, high speed laser scanners were our main tool. But unless the renovation was complex, the cost benefit for documenting relatively simple environments like hotels and commercial space was not very high.

For the past year, we have been providing Revit models of existing buildings cheaper and more efficiently than ever before. Previously designers sent interns or fresh college grads in the AEC industry to measure the space, who then took the data back to build a model.

Now we can measure the interior with a handheld laser and when we leave the building, the model is complete. Many projects can be completed in a single day. With a few hours of clean up the next day, the project is finished and out the door.

Our price is generally very competitive compared to the cost of sending designers to measure the space and the advantage is that they are designing and generating revenue. It is a win-win.

I am often asked by designers why they have to change the way they have been designing when it has been successful for decades. The answer is simple: there is a better way to do it.

With the advent of 3D printers, many designs will be printed and go straight from design to printer to the construction site with no human intervention.

The construction industry is changing, as are the designers who shape that industry. We have reached the new benchmark of 3D survey, design, fabrication and testing and there is just no going back.


Tate Jones has over 40 years of experience in land and aerial surveying and was one of the country’s earliest adopters of 3D laser scanning technology. A nationally recognized expert in the field of 3D data capture, he has worked with hundreds of clients in the engineering, architectural and construction industries. Contact him at or visit

LandAir Surveying at annual engineering meeting in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

LandAir Surveying is attending the annual meeting held jointly by the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE), American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Tennessee, and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This two-day event is being held at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In town this week? E-mail us! We’d love to connect…

LandAir Surveying at Oak Ridge Safety Fest 2013

LandAir Surveying is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, today attending the Oak Ridge Safety Fest 2013.

Oak Ridge is home to much manufacturing, most notably the federal contractors providing services to the Department of Energy (DOE), including such institutions as Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

The event includes four days of free safety training classes, many of which lead to certification. This focus on safety helps ensure a productive work environment for us all.

Are you in Oak Ridge this week? If so, let us know! We’d love to connect….


David Headrick has over 20 years of experience in the surveying, engineering, and legal industries, both as a project manager for LandAir Surveying and as a lawyer in private practice.  He has represented numerous land surveyors, designers, architects, contractors, and other industry professionals throughout his career.  Today, David serves as an executive and project manager for LandAir Surveying Company, Inc., focused on developing and managing the company’s 3D Laser Scanning Division.  Contact him at (865) 599-0148 or

LandAir Surveying at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) annual meeting…

LandAir Surveying will be presenting on 3D laser scanning to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) annual meeting for its Tennessee section this Friday, August 23. The all-day program will be held at Buddy’s in Bearden, Tennessee, and will feature multiple speakers. Our own David Headrick will be presenting at 1:00 PM (EST)!

3D laser scanning: the perfect choice for fast-growing automotive industry

The automotive industry is firing on all cylinders – especially here in Tennessee. For the fourth year in a row, the state has been ranked No. 1 in auto industry strength.


Not only has Nissan been operating here for 30 years, but Tennessee is also now home to General Motors and Volkswagen’s operational plants, as well as Magneti Marelli and a number of original equipment manufacturers. In the last year, Tennessee hosted 44 automotive projects generating over $1 billion and thousands of jobs.


Earlier this month, GM announced plans to add 1,800 jobs at its Spring Hill assembly plant over the next three years so that it can begin building two new midsize vehicles.


In June, Nissan Motor Co. announced that it will add 900 jobs at its plant in Smyrna, just northeast of the GM plant. Also this month, Nissan announced plans to up production of its electric motors in its engine factory in Decherd, Tennessee. The plant is already staffing up to launch a third work shift to accommodate production.


As the automotive industry continues to grow, 3D laser scanning can play a major role in the redesign and construction of these plants.


This high definition scanning technology is the perfect tool to help automotive manufacturers retool their assembly lines, update their as-built drawings, and maximize efficiency of their production line layout.


How, exactly, can 3D laser scanning help?


#1: Reduced risk. Not only is laser scanning safer than traditional scanning methods because it allows crews to measure in places that would have previously been impossible, 3D laser scans also save money by eliminating the need for construction reworks and field retrofitting. Because of the quality of the scanned data, the number of change orders due to design flaws and unknowns is dramatically reduced.


#2: More precise. A laser scan takes multiple scans to collect millions of data points that are then registered together to generate a single three-dimensional “point cloud” that provides accurate distances and elevations between points on X, Y & Z coordinates. This accuracy provides the ability to perform better simulations and visualizations for training and monitoring purposes.


#3: Regulatory compliance. As governmental regulation and scrutiny increases, factory owners must ensure the as-built and as-maintained condition of production assets is in compliance. Laser scanning can be used to ensure plants are always safely within the regulatory guidelines.


#4: Huge cost savings. Laser scanning enables designers and engineers to revisit the original scan multiple times without having to physically return to the jobsite. Coordination between design and construction teams is greatly improved by providing visual documentation for discussion, and expensive construction reworks are greatly reduced.


Additionally, schedule compression of as much as 10% has been reported when 3D laser scanning has been deployed. This means big savings – especially on projects where outage time can cost as much as $1 million per day!



As the automotive industry continues to expand, 3D laser scanning technology can be an invaluable asset to the construction and redesign efforts of auto manufacturers to increase accuracy and efficiency while significantly saving both time and money.




David Headrick has over 20 years of experience in the surveying, engineering and legal industries, both as a project manager for LandAir Surveying and as a lawyer in private practice.  He has represented numerous land surveyors, designers, architects, contractors and other industry professionals throughout his career.  Today, David serves as an executive and project manager for LandAir Surveying Company, Inc., focused on developing and managing the company’s 3D Laser Scanning Division.  Contact him at (865) 599-0148 or

Cutting edge technology becomes best practice on construction projects

3D laser scanning is back in the headlines – this time in Louisville, Kentucky – showing further proof that this innovative technology is quickly becoming the new industry standard for construction projects across the country.

Just last week, work on the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges project in Louisville began and 3D laser scanning technology is playing a key role in the progress.

The project includes reconstruction of ramps for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge and interchanges at the intersection of three major interstates, a second bridge to carry northbound traffic on I-65, and a new East End Bridge to connect two major highways located 10 miles from downtown Louisville.

Kentucky is excited about the project and the clock is ticking! There is reportedly $12 million in bonus awards ($40,000 per day) available to the contractors if construction is completed early and an $80,000 per day penalty if the project is late.

So, when the contracts were awarded late last year, site crews mobilized fast.

The subcontractor providing surveys for the massive transportation project is using 3D laser scanning to plot the entire landscape of construction. This technology enables sketches and plans to be  immediately uploaded to the cloud as they are completed so that crews can access the most recent data in real-time.

As a result, crews can conduct clash detection of existing and proposed construction to show if there are interferences that could potentially slow construction and can make modifications before they cause major construction problems.

As the many benefits of 3D laser scanning become more known, this technology has become a best practice for critical projects.

Many construction companies have even been rolling out flat screen computers onsite to show superintendents actual BIM models by sequence. These models are used throughout the day by workers building bridges, roads and infrastructures around the world.

Construction companies use these high definition laser scans to gather precise data on site terrain, renovations and additions. Architects use them to check proposed design models against existing conditions to fine-tune their designs, and engineers use 3D scans to work with real-world conditions in complex industrial as-built and plant environments.

The scans are quick, accurate and highly detailed and the result is big savings of both time and money. Not only can you revisit the original scan multiple times from a computer desktop, which eliminates costly return visits to the project site, but scans also prevent construction reworks and retrofitting and keep projects on time because they are completed right the first time.

At $80,000 per day, I’d say that’s worth it!


Tate Jones has over 40 years of experience in land and aerial surveying and was one of the country’s earliest adopters of 3D laser scanning technology. A nationally recognized expert in the field of 3D data capture, he has worked with hundreds of clients in the engineering, architectural and construction industries. Contact him at or visit


3D Laser scanning helps with job site safety

When most people think of laser scanning, they think of capturing and documenting existing conditions prior to a construction project.


While this is LandAir’s primary use of our laser technology, there are many additional benefits that our clients are beginning to take advantage of from the scans we provide. One of these benefits is safety, a priority for all of us in the construction industry.


Virtual job site

Laser scanning is a great way to incorporate new personnel into an environment. Enabling workers to view a job site prior to physically stepping onto the site is just one valuable resource provided by a scan. 


Whether it is identifying hazards on a site like open pits or high traffic areas, or just identifying where the lay-down areas for supplies will be, the ability to immerse workers into a site can protect them and cut down on miscommunications in the field. 


Visualization can also assist with language barriers that may be present on a site or tradespeople who don’t understand the entire safety plan of everyone onsite. It can also provide “virtual tours” to interested parties or at least help them identify caution areas before walking the site. 



Laser scanning and modeling can also provide virtual training in a 3D space. The ability to identify parts on equipment and look at the space the equipment is in helps workers identify potential hazards and ensure that they have the necessary tools to make repairs or installations. 


There are partner companies today who are putting virtual “how to” training guides online that demonstrate anything from changing a tire to repairing valves in a virtual environment. This virtual 3D training not only allows for repairs and replacements to be done faster, which can save money on shut downs, but lessens the time workers are exposed to the elements. 


Many times, moving machine parts, extreme temperatures and dangerous spaces are involved with repairs or replacements and cutting down time in the field can help get workers out of harm’s way. 


Clash avoidance

Many times on job sites large equipment is present and cranes are erected. Staging these areas and making sure that the equipment has room to maneuver without colliding with anything else on a site is very important. 


Laser scanning can provide very precise measurements of equipment and the surrounding environment prior to being onsite. A crane’s radius can be measured, modeled and dropped into the virtual site to determine where potential clash areas may exist.


Risk management

In the event an accident does occur, having a laser scan of the site allows the team to go back in and examine the area where the accident took place. It may provide a better understanding of how the accident happened and who may have truly been at fault. 


Having a 3D laser scan of the existing conditions may help limit liability and demonstrate an added level of due-diligence. This information could also be used to create a guide for “what not to do” on future sites.


First responders and safety plans

Providing valuable information to first responders is another benefit created by a 3D laser scan.  Demonstrating the fastest and safest routes on a job site is something that can be easily demonstrated with a laser scan.


Floor plans can be developed or access to a web-based viewer like Leica’s TruView can allow 360-degree views of the environment. Evacuation routes can also be reviewed and demonstrated with a fly-through video for workers on the site.



The deliverables for 3D laser scanning that we provide are various and based on the needs of our clients. We provide drawings, models, fly-throughs and TruViews.


Autodesk’s AutoCAD and Revit are the two most popular formats in which we deliver drawings and 3D models. Our 3D point cloud fly-throughs are easily shown in Windows Media and Leica’s TruView allows clients to see our scan set-ups in full 360 views from each station. 


As the virtual world and building information modeling become more prevalent in the construction industry, new uses for 3D laser scanning that provide increased safety on job sites will hopefully increase as well.




Mitch Dorsett has over 15 years in the building and construction industry and serves as director of business development for LandAir Surveying. Mitch is rapidly becoming an expert in 3D data capture and virtual design and construction, having attended and represented LandAir’s laser scanning capabilities at SPAR, RTC and Autodesk University in 2012. Contact him at or visit