Company Culture: Buy-in is a BIG part of your early success!

Is a laser scan right for your next project? Before you jump in with this revolutionary technology, ask yourself these five critical questions:

#1: How will you use the data? This is always the first question we ask our clients. Talk it over with your provider and/or specifically state how you plan to use the data in the RFP.

#2: What software and version will you use? A point cloud processed in 2014 will not work well with 2012 software. More importantly, your CAD production may be only 20% of the potential.

#3: What exactly are your deliverables? Be specific when talking with your provider about what your expected deliverables are, whether registered point cloud 3D photography, color point cloud, black & white, a CAD-ready model, or a video fly-through of the site.

#4: What is your expected level of capture detail (expressed in inches)? For example, do you need to capture everything 2-inches or larger or 1-inch and larger? The difference in these two can be 4x the work effort! Give this a lot of thought and discussion.

#5: What coordinate system do you want to use? This can be very important, as you may have existing plans or CAD files. If the point cloud and plans are on the same system, they will align perfectly. This is also true with project elevations.

Once you have decided laser scanning is right for your project, the next step is getting buy-in from everyone in the company who will use this data. Don’t overlook this step because buy-in is key to your early success!

Be aware: there is a learning curve to using laser scans and point cloud data, but studies have shown that companies that make the transition from the old technology (two guys and a measuring tape and grid pad) to high speed data capture with precision and clarity are ultimately much more efficient.

To realize the full benefits, you will need a “champion” in upper management and a good CAD technician who genuinely loves the technology.

Plan a training budget and send your team to SPAR or similar 3D conferences. It will foster buy-in, change your workflow and increase your productivity (and profit) in the long run.


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 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 for Renovation of Healthcare Facilities

As a facility, hospitals and other healthcare buildings present a unique situation.

They have the aesthetic needs of a hotel or retail store, but the engineering requirements of an industrial or mechanical facility. These competing needs make space allocation difficult for design, construction, and operations and when renovations are due, accurate as-built information is absolutely critical.

3D laser scanning delivers perfect as-built information to meet the MEP and architectural needs of even the most complicated facilities.

Changes are always afoot in hospitals

Hospitals facilities are anything but static. Improvements in technology constantly call for new equipment and can shrink or modify the size of existing equipment. 

Equipment and mechanical rooms in hospitals are notoriously crowded. Walls, ceilings, kiosks, laboratories, and operating rooms are virtually full of pipes, wires, conduits, and other tools of the MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) world. 

This makes renovations difficult for both design and construction. 

There is a human factor, too. Office layouts change as employees are churned (or “moved” in facilities management terms). Departments often have to compete for space and square footage comes at a premium!

The health and safety of employees is also a consideration. Hospitals must comply with statutory requirements related to office layouts including the minimum amount of space per employee, security features, fire safety protocol, ventilation, temperature control, restrooms, dining facilities and more.

3D Laser Scanning: Perfect asbuilt information

3D laser scanning allows architects and engineers to design renovations from perfect as-built information. This directly addresses the need for accuracy within the tight tolerances of the hospital environment. Since human measurement error is eliminated, re-designs are greatly reduced and errors and omissions on the construction and architectural plans are also of no consequence.

3D laser scanning also gives contractors the upper hand. Since designs are based on actual existing conditions, the contractor can be more confident that it is constructible as designed.  Plus, precise material schedules developed from the model help avoid cost overruns.

The contractor can also use “clash detection” to determine exactly what must be moved or removed to complete the renovation. This technique compares the scanned as-built world to the construction plans and shows which areas are trying to occupy the same space. This significantly reduces change orders.

Owners and facilities managers also save money through efficient design and construction, as they can use the 3D picture of existing site conditions as a decision-making and communication tool during construction and a facilities management tool afterwards.

How it works

A 3D laser scanner uses harmless light rays to collect the 3D location of every object and surface it can “see” from where the instrument is set up. Scanners automatically rotate 360 degrees on a tripod, sending and receiving these light rays in all directions. In about five minutes, the scanner setup is complete and millions of data points have been collected. 

This data, which is known as a “point cloud,” is a perfect 3D asbuilt of existing conditions. The point cloud can be used by itself or modeled in a software program.

Advantages over traditional as-built techniques

3D laser scanning has many advantages over traditional measuring techniques including:

  • Accessibility: 3D laser scanners collect information from areas that can be seen but not easily accessed. For instance, scanners can collect information about MEP pipes and wires running along ceilings and other inaccessible areas.
  • Speed: Each scanner setup takes less than five minutes, so scanning crews can be in and out of an area quickly, without disturbing patients and without compromising the integrity of the data.
  • Safety: Since the scanners use harmless light rays to take measurements, neither patients nor field crews are affected. In fact, field crews do not have to be in a place to measure it.
  • Detail: No other data collection system records such precise information. Architects can see finishes, molding, and other aesthetic features and engineers can measure the locations of all objects seen by the scanner.


The strengths and efficiencies of 3D laser scanning are extraordinarily applicable to the unique environment of healthcare facilities. From design through construction and facilities management, all parties benefit from the precise as-built information given by this remarkable technology.


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 view his LinkedIn profile, click here.

ICSC RECon Packed with Optimism

Las Vegas hosted the annual ICSC RECon Conference last week – the largest retail real estate convention in the world. This year had more than 35,000 attendees and a record number of individual companies. Most attendees were packed with meetings and the tradeshow floor was bustling with activity. 


The retail industry has definitely picked up momentum over the last few months and with the number of prospective sites and development renderings being displayed, it appears the next few years should be busy.  Many of the receptions and parties were back in full swing and the overall atmosphere was more upbeat. News on the home front was good as the Georgia contingent was represented by around 1,000 attendees. 


LandAir Surveying was busy discussing many new projects and exploring ways to assist in gathering as-built documentation. Two things I took away from the project discussions were:  


First, there is work out there and people are looking to make things happen! Deals are being done and getting valuable information into the hands of the parties doing the deals is in high demand. 


Secondly, because people need as-builts of existing space, this signifies that redevelopment is still very predominant. Many of the deals I saw represented in booths were infill projects, urban development and Transit Oriented Development (TOD).


While retail, and for that matter the economy as a whole, is not yet back to pre-recession days; there were many positive trends on display at the ICSC RECon Conference. Let’s hope this trend continues!          


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

Rapid As-Builts for the Retail Industry

In the real estate market, timing is everything.


Those who have better and faster information win. This is what inspired LandAir Surveying to develop Laser Measuring to BIM technology to quickly document existing as-built conditions. 


Many retail projects begin with an existing space needing a build out for a new tenant. Field measurements must be taken to document the existing as-built conditions of the current space and owners use these as-builts to evaluate tenant requirements, determine rental rates, and create design plans. 


Traditional methods of field measuring are slow, inaccurate, and inefficient. In contrast, LandAir Surveying’s Laser Measuring to BIM technology provides a better way to connect the dots from prospect to rent-paying tenant.


As we are closing in on the start of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Annual RECon Conference, I thought it would be a good time to explain how Laser Measuring to BIM is revolutionizing as-built field measuring.

How it works

Laser Measuring to BIM works based on a blue-tooth enabled BIM workstation. LandAir’s survey team uses a laser rangefinder to transmit very precise field measurements into software that enables our technician to draw in Revit, Autodesk’s 3D software solution. 

Once the entire space is drawn in Revit, field technicians perform quality control on the data and finalize the as-built model. The Revit model data will be verified again back in the office and the final deliverable, usually either AutoCAD drawings or the 3D Revit model, is generated. 

Accuracy and speed: The best of both worlds

The Laser Measuring to BIM approach produces a more accurate depiction of existing conditions than traditional methods, because the field technicians see the final drawings as they are mapped in our CAD software. The ability to field-verify measurements while on site not only produces more accurate data, but saves time over the traditional field measurement to office drawing back to field to verify and catch what you missed technique. 

This workflow typically allows drawings to be created in hours as compared to the days traditional methods took. Because this technology can generate as-built documentation so rapidly, it expedites the rest of the process to move a tenant into the vacant space. 

Start construction faster

Producing as-built documents rapidly and accurately allows owners, brokers, and property managers to more efficiently submit sites for approval to the tenants’ corporate design team.

Since the plans are presented in a very user-friendly manner, decisions regarding the suitability of a space are easily determined. This reduces the due diligence time required by prospective tenants. And since the space-defining measurements come from an unbiased third party, rate calculation and space designation can be agreed upon faster. 

All of this leads to the design team beginning on design documents and demolition plans more quickly. Additionally, the precision of laser measuring and field verification of the Laser Measuring to BIM workflow gives designers confidence that the as-built conditions are correct and the production format (AutoCAD or Revit) is something that they can use immediately. 


Laser Measuring to BIM can produce both 2D drawings and 3D models with as much information, or as little detail, as needed. Some brokers may only need a simple PDF of the floor plan with doors, windows, and walls. 

On the other hand, an architect doing a full tenant build out may require a reflective ceiling plan, kitchen MEP systems, and utility plan with outlets and switches. Regardless of the need for information or the level of detail required, Laser Measuring to BIM will produce as-builts faster and more accurately than any field measuring technique used in the past.

Are you planning to attend the ICSC RECon Conference this year? If so, e-mail us. We would love to connect!


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

Laser Technology Makes Traditional Field Measuring of As-Builts Obsolete

Ask architects what they dislike most about their jobs and many will agree that taking field measurements ranks pretty high. 


Measuring as-built conditions takes architects out of the office and away from the work they enjoy most and what makes them money. And many times, traditional measuring methods are inaccurate and time consuming – and that’s when the environment is simple!


When there are difficult conditions, taking measurements can be next to impossible. And not to mention, inevitably, there is always something missed or the field notes don’t quite match up to the rough sketches done onsite. 


Today, there is a better answer to field measuring existing conditions in the form of laser technology.


LandAir Surveying utilizes 3D laser scanning and laser measuring technologies to provide a modern solution to the task of field measuring as-built conditions. Depending on the level of complexity, amount of detail needed, deliverables required and timeframe, we can dictate which laser technology is right for each individual project. 


The power of laser scanning

Laser scanning is the surveying technology of choice when it comes to difficult environments.  Historic buildings, exterior elevations, heavy MEP conditions and the need for very precise measurement data capture are all examples of when laser scanning technology should be used.


Laser scanning generates millions of data points to create a 3D image referred to as a “point cloud.” The point cloud can be measured and viewed in any direction, which virtually puts you back at the work site.


The point cloud is then utilized to generate AutoCAD drawings, building information models (BIM), or used as a design tool itself.


The speed of laser measuring

Our advanced laser measuring technology allows for exact measurements and real time data capture of critical data and building geometry. The use of wireless laser range finders and a remote BIM workstation reduces data collection time, increases accuracy and eliminates rework.


Models and AutoCAD files can be generated onsite and in real time, as well as quality control and field verification, which greatly reduces the amount of work required back in the office.


Here are just a few examples of how laser scanning and measuring have provided more accurate information while saving valuable time and resources in the field:


Project Case Study: Historic Hotel Renovation

A historic hotel built in the 1930’s with no existing documents and in a bad state of disrepair was scheduled to be renovated into a modern boutique hotel. 


LandAir utilized both 3D laser scanning and laser measuring technology to provide a point cloud, TruView, fly-through video and AutoCAD drawings. Laser scans were performed on the exterior of the hotel to provide elevation drawings. 


The eight-story hotel’s exterior was brick and adorned with many architectural details. The laser scan was able to capture all of the exterior data measurements and provide additional helpful details that were viewed in the point cloud including sidewalks, tree clearances and parking lot details. 


The laser scan was continued into the lobby and through the first floor of the hotel, helping tie together the laser scan information and laser measuring software. Due to the nature of the construction of the hotel, each one of the over 140 rooms had to be individually measured and floor plan documents created. 


With LandAir’s workflow design and remote BIM workstation, QA/QC was able to be done on the rooms in the field and the irregularly shaped rooms were verified on site.


Project Case Study: Big Box Retail Conversion

A grocery store and two adjacent in-line stores had gone dark and were going to be renovated to accommodate a new tenant. The option on the building was expiring and there were no existing documents to help determine if the space would work for the future tenant. 


LandAir utilized laser measuring technology to provide AutoCAD documents and a 3D model to the designer and tenant in less than two days. The proposed design and tenant requirements were compared to existing conditions and the project was able to move forward in the required timeframe.


Project Case Study: Pedestrian Bridge Addition

A pedestrian bridge was proposed to be built over an extremely busy street in a large Metropolitan downtown connecting a hotel and parking deck. No drawings were available and the proposed bridge was four stories above the street, making traditional measuring very difficult and dangerous. 


LandAir conducted a 3D laser scan of the exterior of the hotel and the existing parking deck.  The street scape conditions, power lines, traffic signals and building tie-in points were all measured accurately and safely from the laser scanner. 


AutoCAD drawings, a TruView and a video fly-through were provided for the project team. The point cloud fly-through provided a 3D visualization from any vantage point of the proposed bridge.


This helped the hotel determine how the sight views of rooms would be affected and allowed for inspectors, DOT officials and the downtown development authority to understand the impact of the proposed bridge. 


Project Case Study: Mall and Food Court Renovation

A three-story open atrium food court was to be redesigned and new tenants added to the mix. 


The existing documents were not a true representation of existing conditions as, over the years, there had been changes and alterations to the space. Additionally, the height and design of the atrium had many features that were difficult to measure.


LandAir laser scanned the atrium and surrounding spaces to provide a 3D model and clash detection for the proposed design changes. Laser measuring was also utilized to produce exact as-built documents for the surrounding spaces so that the mall owner could provide drawings for future tenants to build out their stores.


Each project has its own challenges and needs. LandAir uses the latest laser technologies to improve these projects and put an end to one of the most painstaking tasks in construction: field measuring. Are you planning to attend ICSC RECon 2013 in Las Vegas next month? If so, e-mail me at We would love to meet you there!



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

Going to SPAR International?

We are getting ready for the SPAR Point Group’s 10th annual conference “End to End 3D: Capture, Process, Deliver” in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 15-18. This is the main event of the year for people in the 3D laser scanning business.

For starters, every manufacturer and software developer in the 3D laser scanning world is sponsoring the event and will be in attendance. We can expect to be dazzled by live demonstrations of the latest and greatest scanners, software, and technology. If you haven’t heard, many announcements have been made in the past few months about breakthroughs, innovations, and technological advancements.

The conference will also be a comprehensive educational opportunity with lots of classes and workshops. Just about every aspect of 3D laser scanning will be presented and discussed.

Attendees can also choose to concentrate on one of the offered tracks: Industrial Facilities, New Technologies, Civil Infrastructure, and Forensic & Security. We will try to check out some of them all. Please let us know if there is a specific topic you would like us to look into. After all, if you need it, we need to know about it!

The topics listed on the website include 3D laser scanning, structured light, LiDAR, photogrammetry, reverse engineering, 3D/4D GIS, Kinect, indoor/portable mapping, autonomous vehicles, mobile survey, point cloud processing, airborne LiDAR /terrestrial integration, open source, web sharing, VIM, augmented reality, 3D printing, simulation, and visualization.

Did I mention that one of the keynote speakers will be Michael Jones, chief technology advocate for Google? That one will certainly be well attended.

With all of these events, we just hope to be able to enjoy a little of Colorado Springs and the stunning Broadmoor Resort that is hosting the conference. Hopefully, we’ll get some better Spring weather!


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, focused on developing and managing the company’s 3D Laser Scanning department. Contact him at