3 Reasons You SHOULD be Doing Your Own Laser Scans.

It is a fair bet that your firm struggles with the same decisions mine does. Dimeo Construction Company , where I head up the VDC department, struggled for years with the idea of purchasing a laser scanner.  Let’s face it, bringing laser scanning in-house goes beyond just the steep price tag. You need the right software, the right training, you need the personnel, and the most difficult, you need time to ramp up. Outside of all of this is the question of how to recoup costs. Up until recently we would bring in an outside vendor. It is relatively clean on the billing side of things.  We hire a subcontractor to perform work (scanning) and that’s a cost that gets passed onto the owner. Once a tool becomes your own the conversation with the owner changes, as you can imagine. While the billing is clean, there are downsides to using a vendor. You are reliant on a third party, have to assume all the coordination and cost associated with that, and you may be less likely to use the tool as frequently as you should. Scheduling site visits, capturing the correct scope, and receiving usable deliverables are all factors that make hiring vendors a burden.  Based on my experiences here are my thoughts on why you should considering bringing laser scanning in-house. FaroScanner

1 MILLION. That’s how many measurements our new laser scanner captures per second. We invested in a new Faro S70 Laser Scanner. It is a small investment that will pay dividends by reducing errors and rework. As an industry we spend roughly 9% of all construction costs on rework. That equates to $11.2 million on a $125 million project. There are three main ways that we plan to reduce risk and costs on projects moving forward: increasing accuracy, improving coordination, and removing people from harm where possible.


Accuracy is important to success. Laser scanning quickly captures the exact location of elements. Risk is reduced when we can confirm existing conditions. Imagine being able to trust the dimensions you are provided and building with less “V.I.F.” notes. We can also verify that work is put in the correct place. We spend a lot of time coordinating MEP/FP system, and a lot of time trusting that the subcontractors install per the coordination drawings. Why not catch errors during installation before they impact others and pile on extra costs and schedule impacts.


We are currently using laser scanning to monitor building movement on a project where the majority of the building is essentially a box truss bridge. Portions of this bridge cantilever and are currently being held in place by temporary supports. We scan the bridge to capture specific points at different phases, like when the temporary supports are removed, when concrete is poured, and 6 months after the pour. By capturing these points over time we can compare laser scan results and review movements at the specific points. We share this information with our design team and subcontractors so they can know what to expect when they come to build.



Another great feature is that scans can be imported into Building Information Models (BIM). A common misconception is that models need to be created from the point clouds provided by laser scanning in order to use the data collected. 

What’s a point cloud? A point cloud is a set of data points in space. Point clouds are generally produced by 3D scanners, which measure a large number of points on the external surfaces of objects around them. source: wikipedia

The truth is, most times, it doesn’t. We’ve had success coordinating new work around point clouds created from laser scanning existing conditions. Avoid unnecessary costs and time on modeling elements when you can.PointCloud


We used point clouds during coordination of a University’s new Chemistry Labs within an existing building. Installations of new systems, connections to existing systems, and wall penetrations were all planned around the existing systems present in the point cloud therefore improving field installs.


Finally, laser scanning allows us to access areas that are not the safest for people, which takes safety to another level. The Faro S70 has an effective range of 70 meters (230 feet). This allows us to measure canopies, overhangs, and exterior facades without the need of lifts or tie-offs. There is no need for someone to reach those spots because the laser can do it from the ground. The scanner itself is roughly one cubic foot and doesn’t need to be in lighted space to capture measurements. This allows us to scan in confined spaces and above ceilings without the need for a person accessing the areas.

What are your thoughts about laser scanning?  Reach me at esanford@dimeo.com, and let’s connect on linkedin.


Author: Erik Sanford

I’m passionate about optimizing process. The AEC industry is filled with opportunities to improve. I feel that all the little improvements we make lead to great results in the long term. Keep it simple, take baby steps, and focus on “fixing what bugs you”.

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