Hotel and Casino Markets Bring Big Opportunities for 3D Laser Surveys

It looks like 2013 will be a banner year for the hospitality industry.

In 2012, U.S. hoteliers collectively sold more than 1.1 billion rooms. Las Vegas welcomed a record 40 million visitors last year and nationwide commercial gambling revenues surpassed the $35.6 billion mark in 2011, up from $34.6 billion in 2010.

A recent study released by the American Gaming Association (AGA) reports that the commercial casino industry supported approximately $125 billion in spending and nearly 820,000 jobs in the U.S. economy in 2010, based on direct, indirect and induced impacts.

Though development, funding, business travel, convention participation and disposable income were almost non-existent over the last five years, the hospitality industry is making a comeback.

So, what does all of this mean to the construction industry? How can the AEC community, which has struggled for years, take advantage of this opportunity?

It already is. The number of projects in the pipeline has already greatly increased during the first two months of 2013 over the first two months of 2012. The AIA reports that the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is reflecting its strongest growth since November 2007.

Not only is the number of new ground-up projects increasing, but renovations and expansions are also happening at a record pace.

Hotels and resorts are expanding, updating rooms, adding new restaurants, providing more services and implementing property improvement plans (PIP) that have been on hold.

As a result of all of this construction, we have seen a tremendous surge in the need for accurate as-built documentation from owners, designers, engineers and contractors.

They need to know what they have and they need to know fast – and 3D laser scanning and measuring services are in high demand.

In just the past few months, our firm has completed a wide variety of projects and requests including field measuring and verification of rooms, hallways and common areas; documentation of exterior elevations and connect points for building expansions, theatres, meeting spaces and parking decks; and complete renovations of old hotels or buildings being transformed into new facilities.

Here are just a few examples of some of our recent projects:

Hotel Renovation

We provided as-built documentation for common areas, hallways and over 100 interior rooms in a major hotel renovation project using laser scanning and laser measuring to produce AutoCAD documents and 3D models.

Rather than measuring each space then returning to the office to create documents, we utilized our laser data capture techniques to wirelessly import to a BIM workstation. This allowed us to measure and create 3D models and AutoCAD files on site and in real time.

We were able to generate floor plans, reflected ceiling plans and interior elevations in the field, which led to increased accuracy, reduced collection and drafting time, and eliminated the need for return visits.

The architect was able to begin work on floor plans immediately while we continued to measure additional floors.

Mechanical Room Boiler/Chiller Replacement

We generated a 3D laser scan of a 20,000 square foot mechanical room, providing a level of accuracy and detail that would have been unattainable with traditional measuring techniques due to the amount of heavy piping and ductwork required.

This enabled designers to drop their prospective model into the point cloud and determine clash issues and tie-in points. The laser scan saved field rework time, material costs and allowed enhanced coordination amongst the project team.

Casino Theater Addition

Because there was insufficient data on the existing condition of the space targeted for the design of a theater, we provided a point cloud and TruView to the contractor and design team via a 3D laser scan. The point cloud allowed for existing mechanical systems and structural elements to be measured and inventoried.

The results increased the speed of design, reduced cost of materials and field rework, assisted with developing a safety plan, and increased collaboration efforts between team members.

As the hospitality industry continues to expand, the demand for 3D laser surveying will increase as clients search for ways to save time and money on their construction and renovation projects. You can bet on it!


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

BIM: Breakfast of Champions

Whenever my travel and work schedules allow, I try to attend the BIM Breakfasts at Georgia Tech.

Held once a month on the Georgia Tech campus, the breakfast brings together some of the best and brightest minds in the Atlanta area.

The February event featured speaker James Barrett, the national director of integrated building solutions for Turner Construction. Jim specializes in virtual design and construction/Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies, lean processes, and integrated project delivery.

Put in layman’s terms, he is pushing BIM and virtual design tools to the limit. Under his leadership, Turner Construction has become one of the top BIM users in the world.

Jim does not push BIM just because it’s BIM. His idea is that his designers and contractors need to use the best tools available to help their company succeed and their clients get the best results. The BIM process and virtual design flows naturally from that core idea.

Turner also does not push one specific type of software, but instead teaches as many as 10 or 12 different packages that their best and brightest have become familiar with. As with any tool, Jim explains, no one tool will do everything.

Another point he made was this: when you roll out a new technology, don’t try to convince the world that it’s the best way to go. Instead, show it to the early adopters and let them prove that it works and that it’s the most efficient option. It will naturally make its way to other potential users.

For me, this point really hit home.

In 2005, we began using terrestrial lidar and 3D scanning technology. I have traveled to many firms in the southeast and tried to sell the benefits to the whole AEC community.

Initially, I had minimum success. It was early in the process and few of the established firms were interested at that time. However, I did find a few and slowly built a successful 3D laser scanning division that still thrives today.

These firms were the early adopters. Ironically, it was not always the young guys that were the most open to new ideas. Sometimes it was an older person who could see like I did where this technology was headed.

Now this technology is almost mainstream and is an integral part of the BIM process.

In his presentation, Jim pointed out that in New York City they have “view protection” and laser scans are used to document the view of the construction site.

In the BIM toolbox, when you identify a complicated project, laser scanning is a tool that you should certainly consider. The benefits and uses of laser scanning data are numerous and the risk of not using one and incurring additional costs down the road can be significant.

Another really good idea that Jim presented was that every year, they take a small percentage of their new hires and immerse them into what they call BIM University.

These people then become experts that the rest of the company can learn from. This gives every group in the company and geographic area internal experts that they can lean on to best implement the technologies of BIM. What a great idea!

They even started an intra-company communication site on their intranet so that users anywhere in the company can post a question. In minutes, experts throughout the company can provide insights and answers and have a forum to share their knowledge.

I believe this practice will continue to grow as companies see the value of tapping into the knowledge base they already have with their employees. What a great tool for a leader to build in their own company.

Jim’s presentation also touched on the other tools that help to automate the construction and design process like the ability to view augmented reality on iPads with the use of QR codes. At his firm, they work with public inspectors to load iPads with plans and drawings to make their process quicker and more efficient.

He also addressed the effect that 3D printing will have on the construction industry. Though it will not likely take the place of massive building material needs, it will fill a unique need when a limited number of items are needed in a quantity that can be met with industrial 3D printers, he said.

There will always be people who question whether we need BIM and virtual design and construction. I cannot completely understand why anyone in the AEC industry would still be asking this question, but I do understand that in some subsets, there is much more low-hanging fruit than in others and for these, early adoption is a no brainer.

The push for BIM and virtual design use and innovation is coming out of the construction industry as the large GC firms have pushed it further and further into their processes.

If you are in the Atlanta area and want to see and meet some of the best minds in BIM, I do recommend the Georgia Tech BIM Breakfast forum. Every time I go, I learn something.


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