Scanner technology has come a long way since it made its debut in 1957. Fast forward and today’s use of laser scanning technology and reality capture in architecture, construction and engineering (AEC) is light years away from those early days. For AEC firms, it’s also becoming a way to improve client engagement and drive new business. We learned this after an extensive renovation of a restaurant in the Renaissance Center, the tallest building in Michigan and the headquarters of General Motors. What follows is an overview of the project, the key challenges we faced and how we addressed them using a digital imaging laser scanner. And, we talk about how we’re now using that technology as a way to engage clients and prospects.


Designing for a Circular Space

The Renaissance Center, also known as the GM Renaissance Center, is a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers located in Detroit. They feature a spectacular view of the Detroit International Riverfront. 

In 2018, the architectural and design firm HED Architects was hired to design and build a circular, three-floor restaurant with panoramic city views and double-height ceilings. 

Before the restaurant fit-out could begin, we needed an accurate picture of the existing space, including measurements and current conditions. However, the key structural components were difficult to locate. While sketches and blueprints were on file, we needed greater accuracy when it came to capturing and measuring the 28,863-square-foot space. 

Adding to the complexity was the need to accurately capture the circular design and double-height ceilings. Measuring the space by hand was out of the question. Other options included bulky and expensive laser scanners or lower end smartphone apps. As every goespatial pro knows, millimeters of inaccuracy can cost thousands in lost hours and revenue.


Reality Capture Transforms Design Process

To resolve these challenges, the team acquired a handheld imaging scanner to capture the intricate details of the existing space and avoid working from inaccurate data that can slow progress and impact design direction. 

Specifically, the team began by setting up parameters for the scan with scan points positioned every 15 to 20 feet. Over two days, we captured over 130 individualized scans, comprising 300,000 laser-precise measurements per scan, to create a 360-degree orbital image of the existing space.

We then uploaded the scans into our BIM platform and stitched together the data points to form a 3D map of the area. The map not only accurately reflected the current space, but also provided a tremendous amount of additional data that can’t be manually captured.

Small and easily transportable, the team used the Leica BLK360 laser scanning device. It acts as a faster, safer and more accurate way to capture and document reality, taking thousands of precise laser measurements.

With reality capture, you get all the scans and measurements correct on the first visit, negating the need for follow-up visits or learning too late about inaccurate data.

More efficient and effective than traditional manual measurements, reality capture improves the existing design process and drastically diminishes the possibility of surprises as work progresses.

For the Renaissance Center project, reality capture saved over five days of measuring time. This eliminated reliance on outdated and incomplete drawings and ensured that all future work would be grounded in accurate information.


Engaging Clients and Creating Opportunities

It used to be that every team in the industry expects to return to the work site to take additional measurements, adding more time and costs to the project. With reality capture, you get all the scans and measurements correct on the first visit, negating the need for follow-up visits or learning too late about inaccurate data. It also allows you to discover what’s behind the walls and create what-if scenarios online to present to clients.

The reality capture experience can be more impactful than a physical walkthrough because you’re able to show progress on the project and easily manipulate models to see realistic outcomes before making decisions.

When our Renaissance client first came into our offices to take a spin through the reality capture model of the restaurant, they were able to put on a headset and virtually tour the space. It wasn’t long before each team meeting had more and different people taking the virtual tour. It became the highlight of the project and helped strengthen our relationship with the client and spread the word about one of our firm’s strong differentiators, which helps to drive awareness and new opportunities for us.

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Regarded as a must-see dining experience, HED’s highly visible project in the Renaissance Center demonstrates how the latest in reality capture, laser scanning and BIM technology saves time and costs, provides the most precise measurements, and introduces a new way of documenting and sharing data.