Mobile Building Documentation Services
In the early 1980’s Russell Klein, one of the founders of Archidata, a New York city – based building conditions survey firm began his career as a licensed architect by working with a number of early CAD systems. This included a product (CADAM) that had used a light pen and an unmarked box with 36 function keys to create CAD objects. And you thought your user interface was confusing.
In 1990 Russell and his partner formed Archidata to provide production CAD and building documentation services. They have been serving some very large clients all over the greater New York city area ever since, such as the Port Authority New York & New Jersey who has responsibility for the World Trade Center complex. Over the years the workload has shifted from primarily CAD services to the point where now 80%+ of Archidata’s business is the as-built documentation of buildings.
The Evolution of Technology
In the early days the clipboard, tape measure and pencil were the Archidata tools of choice, but once the “disto’s” came on the market, Russell and his team upgraded. “It was one measurement at a time. One of the first handhelds that we used came from Germany. It was about the size of a small shoe box,” Russell recalls.
Archidata has been using traditional static laser scanning for the past three or four years. They retained the services of John Smits, an expert in the field who is also located in New York for their more complicated projects such as floor slab deviation, but they were also looking for a simpler, more flexible sensor that could provide them with 3D documentation.
They tried the GeoSLAM ZEB 1, but decided to wait for the REVO. “We were attracted to the GeoSLAM ZEB-REVO because of its capability and the price,” Russell explains, “We had a demo of the first version from Bill Gutelius at Qntfi, who was very helpful and it exceeded all of our expectations.” Russell looked at carts and backpacks, but these had too many limitations such as moving between floors and high cost, in the case of the backpack.
Russell explains, “We got our REVO about 2 months ago and while I was initially skeptical, this thing has proven to be amazing. Most of our work is indoors, ranging from studio apartments to 400,000 sf parking garages. After comparing the point cloud to some overall disto shots, we’re always within about an inch, even over 400 feet. Sorry to sound like a promo piece, but it’s been really working for us. I’d estimate a 10 to 20 times improvement in survey time over disto to tablet methods.” Russell continued, “There are some challenges that we need to manage, like drift when you can’t close the loop, glass and shiny objects, and sometimes fuzzy data, but the one item we would like to see added is a camera. It’s hard to see detail in some cases, so for now we use a GoPro to help figure out what’s in the cloud. You can easily miss a flush door. We also have to “flag” about 20% of our scans for reprocessing by GeoSLAM. They tweak it somehow which usually resolve any glitches overnight. Unfortunately they can’t deliver the results in ReCap format, so we go through cloud compare, to .e57 and then into ReCap.”
Looking to the Future
Overall Russell and his team are very satisfied with the REVO system. It performs well on stairs particularly when you can perform a loop closure. At the rate that Archidata was using the data processing software credits they recently made the decision to buy the desktop version so they can now process their own data in-house.
“I think the next hurdle to overcome is automated feature extraction,” Russell commented, “We are hopeful that this process can become more streamlined and reliable in the future. In the meantime, the REVO has dramatically improved our data collection productivity and we look forward to future developments.”