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 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.

An armed robbery, a high speed police chase and…laser scanning?

Sometimes I don’t have to look past the front page of the local newspaper to see a good example of laser scanning in action.

Tragically, there was a police-involved shooting in Cobb County, Georgia, this past weekend, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The suspect allegedly robbed a gas station and then led the police on a high speed chase. The chase ended on I-75 when the suspect pointed a weapon at the police officers and was shot dead.

This was a very unfortunate incident, but the impact on the community was far lessened due to the outstanding work of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The shooting and subsequent chase left many cars wrecked and damaged and, ultimately, the interstate was forced to close temporarily. As you can imagine, this was not a calm situation.

The GBI dispatched their laser scanning team to the site to set-up and scan the area to document the evidence both known and unknown at the time. They also generated 3D photography to further document the area in its entirety.

Using this method, they not only saved time, but were also able to quickly collect the data that would be necessary if the case were to go to trial.

So why use laser scanning to document a scene like this?

First, consider the sheer size of the scene. In this case, the area of study was larger than a football field. Without scanning, investigators would have had to take multiple photographs and make measurements with total stations that shoot one point at a time or worse, measure with 100 foot-long measuring tapes.

This takes much more time, requires more people, and creates much more chance for errors. The errors could be wrong measurements or even missed objects.

When you combine the laser point cloud data with the photographic data, the measurements and the scene become much more intuitive and obvious. You can place the evidence markers by the evidence within the scene and the scanner automatically picks them up.

Instead of making and recording many different angles and distances, you simple put in the points per square foot you want to capture into the scanner and in about 15 minutes, you have a completed scan with photography.

You can look at the scan and very clearly see the markers and measure from any object in the scan to any other object in the scan. So, if you need to know how long a skid mark is, for example, you would just click two points – one at the beginning and one at the end – and the measurement would be instantly generated.

With laser scanning, time at the scene is used to locate and mark the evidence and important points in the scene. All critical measurements can be made offsite after the scene is moved and the traffic is moving again.

Here’s the most important part: If you need information about the scene, but did not know it at the time of the scan, all is not lost! If it exists in the scan, you can make all the measurements you need to document the new (previously unknown) evidence.

More and more, laser scanners are being used to document crime scenes across the country. District attorneys like the scanned data because they can easily view it.

Scanned data is totally objective in that it collects the whole scene. It is easy to put a point down on the ground every square inch so that the coverage of the site is complete. Additionally, the fact that no one has to decide what measurements are made in the field before they release traffic is very important.

Judges like the data because the jury does not have to visit the site to understand the scene. Instead, they can simply view it in 3D on a computer screen without leaving the courtroom.

Laser scanning also saves time and money. Traffic still has to be stopped for an investigation, but if not for laser scanners, it would be stopped longer and there would be less information collected.


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