Building a Company with 3D Technology – TerraMark

Building a Company with 3D Technology

Kevin Hardy, Vice President – Technology

A Brief History

terramark

TerraMark is a land surveying firm that was founded in 2003 in Marietta, Georgia; a suburb of Atlanta. Over the years they have been involved with some of the landmark projects of this fast-growing urban region including SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves; and Centennial Olympic Park, re-designed in time for last year’s 2019 Super Bowl.

Kevin Hardy, Vice President -Technology joined the firm in July 2004 with no surveying experience. He started in the field, quickly learned the business and moved into a project management role. Kevin noted, “The software and equipment we used was the part of the business that I focused on. I quickly learned that with the right software and equipment you can make your business run more efficiently and more profitably.” 

In 2007 TerraMark discovered the world of terrestrial lidar just before the economy crashed, putting their plans to move in that direction on hold. Kevin’s focus shifted to GIS as a better fit with the projects they were working on during the downturn. 

In 2013, after getting his GISP, Kevin attended the Esri User Conference in San Diego, CA. Kevin recalls, “In the exhibit hall I ran across a RIEGL USA salesperson and noticed that he had a video showing the lidar point cloud inside MicroStation, which was the primary CAD software we were using at the time. I was intrigued. The next year we purchased our first VZ-400, TopoLift and the TopoDOT software. Based on the return on investment we were seeing, we purchased our second VZ-400i in 2017.”

The Technology

Over the years TerraMark has made additional investments in technology in order to support the growth of the firm. In addition to the traditional total stations and terrestrial scanners, they have continued to invest in CAD and GIS software as well as RIEGLs office workhorse, RiSCAN PRO. Kevin noted, “As a surveyor the one thing we like to see is proof that something is right (checks and balances). That is what I saw in the RiSCAN PRO software.”

Kevin continued, “I had looked into many other lidar companies and the software was always the one thing that pushed me away. RiSCAN PRO was the first software that made me feel comfortable in knowing I could trust the results. The combination of RiSCAN PRO and TopoDot, which worked on top of MicroStation, was the ultimate setup. RIEGL has developed the fastest and most seamless registration process that I have ever seen. It produces very detailed reports that help set your mind at ease.“

In 2016 TerraMark began investing in drone software and hardware, and plans to add airborne and mobile lidar sensors to their inventory in the near future.

Workflows and Best Practices

“Some of my colleagues like to give me a hard time about always using the term ‘workflow’”, Kevin pointed out. He continued, “RIEGL helped me setup our scanning workflow right from the start. They were able to visit our office in the beginning and spend several days with us to make sure we started off on the right foot.”  

Kevin redesigned the workflows in the field and the office in order to take advantage of improvements that RIEGL has made to their registration process. He explained, “In the beginning we started with three targets or more per scan position. Now we just have a target every 400 to 500 feet on linear projects. I would say the registration process now is superior.”

Kevin noted, “A key benefit of laser scanning is being able to mine the data. You can also cut out more than half of the time spent on a site and collect data that you cannot collect with traditional surveying techniques. Safety is also critical when doing roadway projects.  Going from the VZ-400 to the VZ-400i was big. We went from 7 minutes a scan with pictures, to 1.5 minutes a scan with pictures.”  

SunTrust Park and The Battery

SunTrust Park is a baseball park that serves as the home of the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball (MLB), located in the Cumberland area of Cobb County, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. TerraMark has been involved with the project since before the official announcement in November 2013. The complex includes the ballpark, an entertainment complex known as “The Battery”, and a mixed-use development next to the ballpark. 

TerraMark was contracted by a civil engineering firm in November of 2013 to perform a field run topographic, utility and tree survey of 78 acres of undeveloped and wooded property, and the adjacent roadways. The final survey deliverable was required to be completed within a tight 30-day timeframe. Multiple survey crews were utilized to perform the work and critical coordination efforts were required to have underground utilities marked during the data collection phase. TerraMark’s team of project managers, project assistants and CAD technicians worked together to meet the client’s deadline and deliver the required design survey on time.

During the construction project they started using the VZ-400i to complete as-built surveys of a number of features that would have put crew members in harm’s way if they had to locate them with traditional surveying equipment. Examples on the stadium structure were architectural embeds, ADA ramps, railing design surveys and many more. After most of the construction was completed, the crew did an overall scan of the entire site and continued to use the point cloud for a few years; mining data for ALTA surveys and final record as-built surveys. 

The baseball park project was completed on schedule for the opening day in early 2017, with other adjacent projects continuing as the development grows.

Looking Ahead

The next step in the use of 3D technology for TerraMark is to move into aerial and mobile lidar. Kevin explained, “We are always looking for ways to grow and expand. The challenge is that the traditional land surveying profession is slowly transitioning. Georgia has a limited number of surveyors and we do not see many young people entering the profession.” 

As a result, TerraMark has started attending job fairs at local universities to demonstrate their 3D technology in order to let young people see the exciting possibilities as well as the direction that the land surveying technology and the profession are moving. 

Kevin concluded, “I think being able to educate your clients on the benefits of 3D lidar technology, and all the ways it can be used, is the key.” 

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