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3D Scanning – Not just a new way to view architectural elements

By Mikaela Price, AKF Group


The ability to scan the interior of a building adds value for architects and interior designers, but what about the engineers? Is there a benefit? The short answer is yes, and it is similar to a virtual walkthrough of a house or mall, but the focal points are the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection services.

Over the past 20 years the popularity of fixing up older buildings has hit a record high. The AIA collected data that indicates 52% of firm billings consist of renovations. At the start of a renovation project the access to existing drawings determines how much information a design team can gather about the existing systems, apart from surveying it. 3D scanning provides value to the owner and design team by ensuring a thorough survey of all systems in a shorter amount of time compared to an in-person survey. For example, services generally run in the same service tunnel; tracing individual lines, taking photos, and marking up a plan can take several hours over the course of multiple days. With a 3D scan, a team can locate all services and how they are coordinated within the general footprint of the building or space.

Typically, a design team will send out at least one person per discipline over multiple days to trace out existing facilities. 3D scanning requires only one or two individuals for a few hours to capture the information. This information is then translated into a point cloud and High Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery that allows design teams to virtually survey the space and re-visit it at any time they may need. This information can also be imported into design models (Revit, 3D PDFs, virtual reality headsets) to ensure that existing information is modeled in the correct locations and proper heights to help mitigate any confusion that comes about from only having markups and a standard photo from a site visit.

The level of coordination with existing systems that 3D scanning provides allows a design team to be confident that new equipment, duct, piping, conduit, and other services can fit within the parameters of an existing space. This also minimizes the amount of RFIs that may arise from missed information or modeling from existing drawings, which can lead to less change orders for stakeholders.

AKF’s 3D Scanning integrated service has proven useful in multiple projects from universities and health care facilities to commercial spaces by being able to provide the design team with a detailed visual of existing services, while also providing owners and stakeholders information of the completed project.

Mikaela Price is a mechanical engineer at AKF Group, an MEP/FP Engineering and Integrated Services firm with offices throughout the USA and Mexico.

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