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Laser Focused

In today’s preconstruction process, virtual modeling is an integral piece of the puzzle, an evolving tool that merges the art of construction with the science of imaging technology. Project teams rely on it to create efficiencies across the board — in scheduling, materials, and even budgets. As clients come to expect these capabilities, contractors must find innovative ways to get the most out of their resources and remain ahead of the curve to capitalize on the opportunities technology provides.

In its latest technological evolution, MMC Contractors is finding that laser scanning is not only becoming a valuable tool for large projects, but it also allows all involved to remain focused on creating an all-around smoother experience. It has redefined the renovation market, creating a virtual world that brings existing conditions to life rather than living in the "real" world — one where partners rely on the quality and accuracy of as-built drawings.

Patrick Marshall, member of MMC Contractors’ Virtual Design Group, touts the difference laser scanning makes and how it is transforming the renovation market. "Laser scanning allows us to capture existing conditions of a building, so it has completely changed how we approach renovation work. It is minimally invasive, so it doesn’t disrupt workflow of current tenants, but the images it produces makes it feel like we’re actually there. We are able to identify potential issues right away, so this makes the entire process more efficient and allows us to optimize productivity on site," he said.


Because of the accurate images it provides before ever turning dirt, Brasfield and Gorrie Project Manager Brad Runyan credits utilizing laser scanning during the preconstruction phase of the Tallahassee Hospital with saving the project time and money. "Laser scanning helped us tremendously with integrating our new CEP expansion with the existing 40-year-old CEP. We were able to scan the existing systems and structures and run clash detections against our new systems, which, in this case, allowed us to identify a key issue with roofing height discrepancies that would have been very costly to fix if it wasn’t caught during scanning and BIM coordination," said Runyan.

Renovation work often relies on outdated drawings, making laser scanning that much more valuable. Scanning allows VDC modelers to solidify aspects of the point cloud, turning objects into a drawing that the team — and partners — can integrate with BIM and sync it with other programs. "We typically use laser scanning on all of our large projects, particularly on existing campuses. The ability to scan the project and begin coordination and planning prior to ever receiving as-built documents, which are almost certain to be outdated, we find to be extremely beneficial," said Runyan.


The ability to use these models in sync with other programs makes laser scanning the bridge to other partners, translating an often-outdated language to one that is common to architects, engineers, and contractors. "We have integrated the existing building scans into our BIM modeling and coordination efforts to sync with programs such as Revit and Navisworks. This allows us to work directly within the same software using the same images — in real time — as our partners if needed. This is not only incredibly efficient, but it can also shave time and cost off of the project," said Marshall.

The MMC Contractors team is discovering these benefits a full year before the trades will begin their work on the Inspira project in New Jersey. With a complicated Greenfield site containing an aging foundation, steel, and other challenges that come along with renovation work, accurately surveying existing conditions became integral to saving time in the schedule. By utilizing laser scanning and integrating it with Revit, the team is cutting significant time off the project.

"What we are able to accomplish with laser scanning has completely changed the project. By using scanning and integrating it with Revit, we are able to detail our work directly in the same model as the architects and engineers do, making the entire process a collaborative effort," Project Manager Lee Sellman explains. "For this particular project, we are prefabricating bathroom modules for 204 patient rooms — well before the construction work on site begins — that we can lift into place when the time comes. Because we are using Revit to coordinate everything, not only are multiple trades able to begin work sooner, but we can cut a year off of construction," he said.

By removing the question marks as-built drawings can raise and opening yet another avenue for collaboration, laser scanning allows teams to shift their focus — to creating a better experience, to streamlining the process, and to exceeding not only schedules and budgets but also expectations. "Laser scanning saves labor time and increases efficiency, from beginning to end, top to bottom," said Sellman. "It’s just a win-win. Using technology, we can practice lean construction and take advantage of modern tools to deliver the best product possible."