• John Russo

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for Laser Scanning Services

Your Guide to Avoiding the Pitfalls When Finding 3D Laser Scanning That Results in Quality As-Builts and Designs


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You’ve just been awarded a contract for designing a renovation to an existing building, but before you can begin your design work you need plans of the existing building. Your client said they don’t have any and your contract makes you responsible to verify the existing conditions. Coming out of the gate you are already behind schedule and let’s face it, the last thing you are interested in doing, or have time for, is measuring every bump on a 50,000-square-foot building. Your intern is back in school, and your staff is busy on other projects. Now what?


Related: Visit ARC's projects page to see quality results from laser scans


You’ve heard colleagues talk about 3D laser scanning, but you don’t know how it works or how to go about getting a laser scan done. You search Google for "affordable laser scanning service provider near me.” A dozen hits fill your screen, and you begin clicking away. You start reaching out to the top three or four providers with the best website asking, “How much will it cost to 3D laser scan my project?” When the provider asks you for more information on the building and what your budget is, to quickly qualify the provider with the best pricing, you simply reply “I don’t have any information or a budget; I just need a ballpark number by the end of the day.”


At this point in the process, you’ve already made the five most common mistakes in finding laser scanning services. Before you get yourself into trouble and lose more of your valuable time, let’s review what mistakes were made and how to fix them.

 

Mistake 1: Considering your intern to be capable of providing an equivalent outcome


For the same reasons you would never put your intern in charge of creating your new design, you should never consider sending your intern out to create your building as-built. An intern has little to no experience in either measuring techniques or knowledge of buildings and building systems. How then can you count on them to return with accurate information on which to base your design? The as-built is the foundation upon which you will develop your design, base your design decisions, and eventually create your construction documents.


Mistake 2: Focusing on cost, not value


There are many variables that go into creating an accurate as-built. Often most attention is given to the tool being used. While the choice of the tool is important, perhaps the more important question is what methods and processes are being used to ensure the measurements are accurate, and how will those measurements be represented in an accurate and useable fashion in CAD or a 3D Model? There are two types of accuracy: measured and represented. Every measurement has error. That error accumulates as more and more measurements are taken. What steps does your building documentation professional take to minimize the accumulation of error and how the measurements are ultimately represented? Do you prefer things to be represented orthogonally, or are you OK if things more closely resemble the out-of-plumb, out-of-square real world? Learning how to control error comes from many years of experience. An experienced building documentation professional will be able to minimize the error and provide a product that is easy for you to work with. It is always worth a little more to ensure a good outcome.


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Mistake 3: Not clearly stating your intent


Before your scanning provider can begin to quote your project, they need to know what your intent is. Intent defines process. Consider you are competing for a project and have decided you would like to showcase your team’s technical savvy by presenting a laser scan animation to your prospective client. You have yet to win the job so to minimize your loss if you are unsuccessful in your bid, you tell your provider that your intent is to use the scans for marketing purposes only. The scans don’t need to be accurate, just visually appealing. These scans will be perfectly suitable for marketing, but not reliable for design. After all, the intent was to spend as little as possible to win the job, not to provide accurate measurements. Unless you clearly state your intent up front, your provider is less likely to choose the appropriate processes to use which can have a dramatic impact on quality, cost, and timeframe.


Image by Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC)


Mistake 4: Not being honest about what information you have or what you can afford


Remember you are already behind schedule coming out of the gate, so why waste more time making your service provider guess at which process will be the best one to fit your budget? You may go through multiple rounds of revisions each time adjusting the scope and building an ala carte list of options from which to select. Because you didn’t take time to send your provider the photos you took while on site, or copies of the roll of plans you found in the plan room, the provider is now padding their number to cover their risk of the unknown.


You may be surprised to find your provider is able to provide you a quote for exactly what you need and price within your budget given you are willing to share more information with them. If they still don’t come back within your budget, just ask them, “This is what I have to spend, can you make it work for me if I award you the job?” Often you may find the answer is yes.


Mistake 5: Not giving your provider enough time to quote the project


Give your provider enough time to go through the discovery process to learn about the job. Offer a job walk if warranted. Take time to write a detailed description of your intent and what deliverables you need. If you don’t allow adequate time, they will likely increase their fee by adding contingency to cover their risk. It is not reasonable to expect a same day quote for most jobs. A week is usually adequate for most common uncomplicated projects. Two weeks or more may be appropriate if the job is large and complicated.


A good and accurate as-built will reduce your risk. Make sure the person performing your as-built knows what they are doing. The knowledge gained from their many years of experience is what is reducing your risk, not a lower price. Focus on the value first and the price second. After all, the intent of procuring your as-built is to provide you with accurate information that you can rely on to make good design decisions. Treat your provider as an advisor, not an adversary. Get them on your team to help design the best possible as-built package for your budget. Take a breath and provide the information your provider will need to design the best process to achieve your desired outcome. Give them a reasonable amount of time to prepare their proposal. Slow down to speed up. Proper planning up front almost always guarantees a better and more expeditious outcome.

 

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