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

Five reasons to consider laser scanning in 2013…

Blog 5 photo c10 scannerI hope you are off to a wonderful New Year! In the theme of the New Year, I continue to be amazed at all of the new applications for laser scanning that our clients are coming up with or projects they inquire about measuring.

Hopefully this blog will inspire you to think of opportunities to utilize our services in 2013 to make your next project even better.

As-built data capture has always been a challenge for the AEC community and owners of assets. The outdated methods of gathering data are time consuming and lack accuracy and utilizing these record drawings can be inexact.

LandAir Surveying uses the latest technologies to help our clients. Whether you are looking for accurate as-built floor plans, historic preservation of a structure or MEP surveys in the plenum of a ceiling, we have an accurate and cost-effective solution for you.

Over eight years ago, we began utilizing the revolutionary technology of laser scanning. Our first laser scans were for the transportation industry, performing bridge surveys. Through these and other projects, we found laser scanning to be superior to traditional methods of data capture for a number of reasons:

#1: They are more precise.

A laser scan takes multiple scans to collect millions of data points. These scans are then registered together to generate a single three-dimensional “point cloud” that can be measured accurately and provides distances and elevations between points on X, Y & Z coordinates.

#2: They are versatile.

Laser scans can produce (when used with digital color photos) survey quality files, fly-through videos, BIM Models and CAD drawings.

#3: They are fast.

A single laser scan can be collected in around six to eight minutes. This enables crews to take many more scans and capture more detailed data than ever before. It also allows for accurate surveys to be done with minimal interruption to building occupants.

#4: They are safe.

Laser scanning provides a safer environment and allows crews to measure in places that would have previously been impossible.

#5: They save you money!

Finally, laser scanning almost always pays for itself. Here are a few examples of ways laser scans can save you money on your next project. Here are a few examples of ways laser scans can save you money on your next project:

  • You can always revisit the original scan multiple times from your computer desktop without the time and expense of traveling to the site again and again. With a laser scan, you can even revisit the site from your desktop years after the initial scan.
  • The quality of data collected can minimize or eliminate the need for construction reworks and field retrofitting.
  • The number of change orders due to erroneous design and unknowns in the field are dramatically reduced.
  • Material waste is reduced and the amount of production in the shop is increased.
  • Coordination between design and construction teams is greatly improved by providing visual documentation for discussion.
  • The speed of design is increased by providing accurate as-built conditions and clash detection.
  • Bid documents can be created from as-built data, resulting in lower-priced bids and a quicker schedule.

As you can see, the reasons for laser scanning are compelling. But what types of projects are best suited for this technology? In our experience, we have seen the greatest return on investment for laser scanning on projects that are complex and difficult to measure. Those projects with precise measurement requirements and a required speed of data gathering typically yield the greatest return on investment.

We have scanned miles of tunnels, airport conveyor systems, MEP structures that look like pipe “spaghetti,” hotel and casino atriums, and theaters and stadium grandstands with thousands of different sized structural beams. Laser scanning was by far the best solution for these projects.

While complex projects are great opportunities to utilize laser scanning technology, other advances in virtual design and construction solutions have allowed us to provide results for less complex environments.

New software and measuring solutions allow us to provide detailed as-built drawings and 3D models for hotel rooms, retail spaces, classrooms and offices with amazing speed and at a greatly reduced cost-per-square-foot over traditional architectural surveys. Field measurements to productions of floor plans and even Revit models can now be delivered in days.

From the industrial, manufacturing and energy sectors to hotels, hospitals and retail spaces – LandAir can provide solutions to make your next project more efficient and affordable.


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

Autodesk University 2012: watching an industry grow up!

Attending and exhibiting at shows like Hexagon, Spar, and Autodesk University is always fascinating because you get to interact with clients all over the country and see what’s new in the industry.

This was our first time exhibiting at Autodesk University, but having been to three conferences in Las Vegas in one year, I was quite familiar with the surroundings. At this year’s show – which was attended by over 8,000 people from 102 countries – what I saw was an industry that has grown up and is beginning to make a real impact on design and construction.

I remember in 1986 when a new drafting program named AutoCad came out and everybody was debating if it would become the standard…it did. And it brought with it – along with the digital age and computers – the plotters and all that went with the introduction of this new paradigm.

Most of us waited to see how it would be received in the industry, but then – as now – it proved to be a very valuable tool.

And just a few years ago, we were all still discussing the advances in AutoCAD and Civil 3D.  Though we knew these programs would remain relevant, it was evident from all of the different software that interacted inside of Revit and enhanced the user experience that the world of 3D design was here to stay. (As a friend of mine said not long ago, “If you are not designing and interacting in 3D and models, you are quickly going to be obsolete.”)

Autodesk University 2012 showed us how design is being done today and where it is going in the future. One of the more interesting observations was that besides the architects, engineers and designers, there were contracting companies, retail companies and owners all talking about the new Autodesk programs that were being used in the workplace.

There was lots of talk in these groups about building “Revit families” specific to their business types, as well as discussions around how to mix the contractors (who have the knowledge about how a building is built in the actual world) with the BIM modelers so that the models are also constructible.

This will be a big challenge. Contractors and superintendents who know how to pour a slab and build 20-story buildings have knowledge and insight that is absolutely critical to building a proper BIM model.

As any techno geek, I am always very interested in the new products on the exhibition floor and the showcase included hundreds of third-party vendors developing exciting products that work alongside Autodesk.

There were lots of new software and hardware lines in the 3D laser scanning industry, as well as new software offerings for BIM models, Revit technologies and GIS products. But for me, the most intriguing products were related to 3D printing applications.

These fabrication and modeling solutions enable products to be created directly from their computer models.

Almost anything you could imagine – from cars to motors to guitars – was printed and on display. Though 3D printing has been a popular topic in recent years, it was there, it was real, and it will definitely change how items are built in America and around the world.

At the conference in Vegas, there were actual printers producing objects out of wood, metal and polymers. The only difference was whether the printer was loaded with plywood or metal.

BIM is an acronym for Build Information Models, meaning to build computer models that have built-in intelligence. What I observed was BIM in the context above – building models and objects with just the information in a computer.

My, how we have grown.


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

Where we are now…and where we’re going.

As 2012 winds down and we get ready to head to Las Vegas for the Autodesk University conference, I look back at the strides that have been made in the 3D world and all of the associated hardware and software in our industry.

Not only is there new technology being used and accepted, but the demand for more BIM products, users, and technologists has grown faster than ever. I have also watched with great interest the wave of corporate acceptance that was not there even three years ago.

There is still much ground to be broken, but wow – what a year!

New Software

Take software, for example. As I travel around America and talk to user groups and clients, the one thing I am always asked is when will it be easier to model point clouds into usable entities?

There is much research going on to solve this challenge. Though I have no commercial interest in this firm, I believe one of the ones to watch in this space is ClearEdge 3D. Their EdgeWise Plant software is pushing the barriers away for modeling point clouds.

Personally, I believe that within the next three years, this major barrier we face now will be a minor issue and point cloud use will continue to grow and expand.

The other great leap in technology is that most of the major software packages have updated their products to accept point clouds as a layer. This means that most of our clients in the architectural and MEP worlds can now import our point clouds into their design software and greatly enhance their designs.

Just three or four years ago, using point cloud data required modeling and this limited the market to mechanical and structural engineers and various contractors with specialty software.

Today, because all Revit users can import point cloud data, the need to model everything in a scan project has been greatly decreased. This is a big deal! Now, instead of having to pay for an expensive model, end users get all of the benefits of point cloud precision without the associated costs of modeling.

Not to be overlooked, there are still issues that will need to be ironed out in inserting point clouds into design software, but they will be overcome with time.

For example, if you are working in Inventor to model plant process data, it is best if the project is modeled from start to finish in Inventor. Similarly, if it is to be modeled in Revit, it is best that it be modeled from start to finish in Revit. There are no readily available universal translators to move from a model that was created in Cyclone to a model in Revit while keeping the full integrity of the original model.

Though the data itself is globally transferrable, the structure of the models, entities, families and libraries requires more work to be done in this area.

New Hardware

Last year, I predicted that the hardware in our industry was set and that most of the changes would come in the form of software. On this point, I was wrong.

Several changes have occurred that continue to advance the hardware. For example, The Faro Focus 3D has broken the price barrier. Prior to its release, most scanners started around $80,000 and went up to $200,000. The Focus was released at about $50,000 and has caused price adjustments throughout the industry.

I believe this trend will continue and prices will continue to go down. This is both a good and bad thing for the industry. As prices go down, more people with marginal training and experience will begin to use scanners and bad point clouds will become more of a problem.

There is a saying in our industry that “one bad point cloud kills a lot of clients.” Indeed, this is true. I have talked to clients who tried laser scanning nine years ago, had a bad experience, and will not use it again to this day. The problem is not that scanners are getting more affordable, but that there are still no national standards in the industry.

The upside is that with a lower cost competitor, vendors must consider what value their laser scanners bring that others do not.

Cool New Technology

Two things I am really interested in and know will change the playing field moving forward are   aerial drones and augmented reality.

These two technologies are growing fast and have many great uses. A traditional helicopter used to map utilities and large areas generally costs about $25,000 per day. A one-meter drone quadripod, on the other hand, costs about $2,000 per day.

Though there are unique tasks that the smaller one-meter drones can do that the helicopter is currently doing, there are other tasks that the smaller drones can perform that traditional helicopters cannot do. For example, smaller drones can more effectively and safely map underground pipes, mines and tunnels.

Currently, to send two scanner technicians into a tunnel requires about six surface and sub-surface support staff. An unmanned drone with avoidance technology would be a great solution.

Augmented reality and the ability to project 3D images easily and to large groups is available and is changing the whole world of education. A small but growing company, ViziTech USA, is doing very creative and trendsetting work in this area.

This is where the science of 3D technology is repackaged so that the average person can use and understand it. This is a powerful tool and will lead to great changes in many industries and educational processes. For more on augmented reality, read our recent blog post here.

The design and construction of future projects will still require the same basic processes that are required today. But the use of precision data before, during and after construction – and the visual way the data can be viewed – will greatly reduce errors and downtime events.


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