One of the main tasks of a surveyor is to measure the surface of the Earth. As it relates to the field of architecture, surveyors also determine the exact position of buildings on a plot of land, while architects determine the exact dimensions of the building itself.
While the roles remain the same today’s new technologies are drastically changing the time it takes to do complex building-related survey work.
From Transits to 3D Lasers
Recently Graphisoft hosted a fascinating webinar titled, “Energizing Heritage Conservation with ARCHICAD Point Clouds and BIM,” led by Philip D. Allsopp, a Chartered Architect of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Phil Allsopp is currently Chief Design Officer and co-founder of Smart Pad Living, LLC as well as Senior Sustainability Scientist and Adjunct professor at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS).¹
Just prior to the Graphisoft webinar, I had a chance to talk to Allsopp on the phone about subjects such as 3D laser scanning, BIM, and the emergence of HBIM (historical building information modeling), among other things.
The AEC industry is on the cusp of dramatic change in the field—the site of construction. After years of progressive changes brought about by things like the Internet, BIM, and now the cloud, the “cutting edge” in AEC has begun to shift to the outside world with physical innovations like drones and 3D laser scanners.
“A traditional team would take three months at least and probably cost close to $300,000 dollars, or more,” says Allsopp, referring to the historic Arizona grandstand building his team fully documented using Faro 3D laser scanners, a drone, and Graphisoft’s popular BIM (building information modeling) application ARCHICAD. “If we were doing all of this commercially,” he adds, “it would be somewhere about $45,000 – $50,000 dollars. So it is less than 1/6th the cost of conventional survey methods.”
Saving Heritage Structures
Allsopp isn’t really all that interested in the dollars and sense of this brave new world of drones and lasers; his passion for both the technology and its application is admirably aimed at two separate but yet connected worthy goals—preserving the lives of cultural assets in our built environment and, secondly, fostering the adoption of technologies for simulation and optimization in the AEC industry.
In the opening minutes of his webinar presentation, as well as our talk, this dual focus comes sharply into view. “If companies like Ford and Boeing used supply chain thinking as is commonplace in the construction sector, our world would be a much more dangerous place…things would be falling out of the sky,” says Allsopp. “It’s not just the cost involved in constructing surveys,” he adds, “but when you add this [new technology] to BIM you start to think about how a human habitat can be built if it was built with the same levels of precision and reliability that we currently take for granted in our iPhones and cars.”
Allsopp’s task in Arizona involved spearheading the project for recording the as-built conditions for the historic Arizona State Fairgrounds grandstand building. A consortium of preservation professionals and neighborhood organizations—the Arizona Fairgrounds Stakeholders Group—were at work to save another building on the State Fairgrounds, a treasured yet dilapidated 1938 WPA Administration Building, from demotion to be replaced by blacktop parking spaces. During their analysis of the site, Stakeholders Group discovered that the grandstand had no record drawings describing the structure, its dimensions, and plans. For future preservation and repair work, as-built drawings of the huge structure were needed.
“Arizona doesn’t need anymore of that,” says Allsopp. Noting that blacktop paved parking lots in an environment like Arizona contributes significantly to what environmental scientists and urban planners know as the “heat island” effect. While rooftops actually contribute more area than paving and roads, (up to 30 percent of urban area) both surfaces contribute greatly to the phenomenon that urban areas can be up to 7 degrees hotter than the nearby rural areas that surround them.
This excessive heat in urban areas forces buildings to work harder and longer to provide air-conditioned and cooled environments that people can be productive in. Hence, Allsopps’ involvement in a preservationist project is instantly linked back to his interest in sustainability in the built environment and the design of places that are much more efficient and that enable and encourage healthier living.
next page: BIM and HBIM—No Distinction Necessary