Point of Beginning

Envisioning a Transformation

March 30, 2012
Accurate 3D models of existing conditions help design teams see the future in renovation projects.

A rendering of mechanical space completed by Truescan3D in Autodesk 3ds Max.


In the renovation of an interior space, understanding existing conditions and being able to anticipate potential conflicts is key to minimizing costs and turning the project around quickly. Highly detailed, accurate information is a valuable visualization tool, but it isn’t always easy to find.

When design teams set out in 2011 to convert the historic downtown Higbee Building in Cleveland, into an elegant casino, they wanted to eliminate guesswork. Built in 1931, the 11-story Beaux-Arts style structure was originally a department store. The building’s mechanical spaces are unconventional by modern standards and presented challenges for the architects and engineers charged with retrofitting new building components to support the casino.

Designers turned to Truescan3D, a high definition surveying services firm based in Cincinnati. A recently launched division of civil engineering and surveying firm Kleingers & Associates, which began laser scanning in 2007, Truescan3D provides services in every aspect of laser scanning, from data capture and analysis to importing 3D point-cloud data into industry-standard Autodesk Revit software to build informative models. “3D scanning is ideal for capturing existing conditions on buildings and structures,” says Jason Ellis, technology director at Truescan3D. “The high point density captured virtually eliminates the need for return trips to collect additional or missing data, and it can reduce or even eliminate redesign fees caused by poor record documentation.”


A completed Revit model.

Kleingers & Associates had been using other Autodesk products prior to creating Truescan3D. With the advent of the new division, the firm invested in Autodesk Revit to support its internal building information modeling (BIM) processes as well as to support the needs of its clients. By using IMAGINiT’s Scan to BIM solution for Revit, the firm believed it could win business, accelerate knowledge transfer and deliver excellent work to its clients.

One immediate benefit that Truescan3D identified when using Scan to BIM was that it enhanced the visualization of as-built conditions. “The software allowed us to thoroughly analyze as-built conditions, including hard-to-get measurements for things like sagging floors,” Ellis says. “For analyzing point cloud data in Revit, Scan to BIM is an extremely powerful tool because you get comprehensive visualization tools, a high degree of precision and ease of data management.”



Camera views of completed models from different perspectives.

The Higbee Building renovation was the firm’s first contract that required a Revit deliverable. The teams needed to learn how to effectively analyze point cloud data within Autodesk Revit and generate an accurate 3D model under an aggressive deadline. Quick implementation and delivery was key, so Truescan3D opted to collaborate with IMAGINiT Technologies to build a project team that included IMAGINiT trainers.

After scanning the Higbee Build-ing, Truescan3D worked closely with IMAGINiT to import the data into Revit, analyze the data, build parametric Revit elements and provide it to the client as a Revit model, making it possible for designers to envision the transformation of certain spaces within the heritage building into the updated mechanical spaces to support the new casino. “Using IMAGINiT’s Scan to BIM toolset for Revit, we were able to analyze the point clouds, determine imperfections and deviations in the existing floors, walls and mechanical systems, and then build Revit models that were accurate within the predetermined tolerance, or build custom models in-place when necessary,” Ellis says. “IMAGINiT trainers showed us how to create dynamic parametric models and control them horizontally, vertically and rotationally to fit the master BIM files being used by the design team. This process resulted in precise, positionally accurate Revit deliverables that the design team could reference or modify while working in their native design software.”



A color point cloud of a lower level mechanical space in the Higbee Building. Opposite: A rendering of mechanical space completed by Truescan3D in Autodesk 3ds Max.

For Truescan3D, the point cloud represents a surplus of long-term value. Because the entire existing space is digitally documented in three dimensions using Scan to BIM, staff can go back to the point cloud as the project scope changes and new design questions emerge. Truescan3D staff can analyze the captured data, refine models or create new models as needed, making new design efforts far more efficient.

As developers and design professionals embrace 3D laser scanning as a way to help keep their technically challenging renovation projects on schedule and on budget, engineering and surveying firms can find new revenue sources by helping clients more easily visualize the details of their projects. “We like to consider point clouds as solutions waiting for design challenges to arise,” Ellis says.





For more information about Truescan3D, visit www.truescan3d.com. Additional details about IMAGINiT’s Scan to BIM software is at www.imaginit.com or www.rand.com.