I Told You So…


My firm, Eco3D recently worked with a client on a $800 hundred-million-dollar project on the east coast and to validate the elevator shafts and staircases of a newly constructed corporate headquarters. The general contractor is a very large and well known national company that not only has a VDC/BIM Division, but aggressively markets that as a differentiator to owners as a benefit.

Initially we met with their National VDC/BIM Director to pursue the concept of laser scanning continuously throughout the construction of the 3 buildings—with the goal of design model validation, and perhaps more significantly, rework mitigation. We also pushed as hard as we comfortably could to be a part of the IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) Team from the scanning/modeling perspective.

I went so far as to offer to provide our service at no charge—and to be paid based upon the amount of money we could quantitatively save them on the project. Basically to point out the errors as they occurred and place a dollar value on that error identification so as to mitigate problems later on.

The response was that they didn’t see value in “scanning as you build” and were certain they could build a quality product as they’d been doing for years. [I pay my mortgage because it’s never built right.] They were also slightly arrogant as to their ability to have a highly accurate design model that the subcontractors would execute perfectly upon. Finally, they told us they didn’t have a line item in the budget that could afford our services, but “Hey, thanks for coming out.”

Last Month…

That was 2 years ago and today the project is in the tenant improvement phase  of the 3 million square foot area. So we get a phone call last month asking us to scan two floors because the mechanical contractor was having “…significant issues with plans being wrong” on this shiny new high-rise.

We executed the work and using proprietary software that takes the model into the point cloud (point cloud identifies the actual site conditions—or as-built information), we ran the analysis. What we found was jaw-dropping.

There are significant issues with the structural deviations throughout the sample set. It turns out that what was intended, versus what was built, are two very different things. There are multiple areas on a single floor with deviations of 2-4”. Can you image how far off the MEP will be—and we didn’t even get to that report yet. The contractors, as they’re known to do, built what they could based upon the design intent. Will the owner realize or even care? That is yet to be determined. All of this would have been identified had the contractor had a QA/QC system in place.

Lessons learned

I find it inexcusable for any significant new construction project to not incorporate 3D laser scanning technology as a part of the QA/QC construction process on a phased approach or milestone basis. There is simply too much to be gained by utilizing this technology. It shows the lack of understanding or maybe unwillingness to change within the construction industry. The small amount of investment in this process can literally have 10x ROI or even more.

I also believe that service providers will be slowly pulled into this arena as the owners figure out they can leverage their construction teams with much greater accountability. The concept of providing an accurate as-built at the end of the project has sensational financial value throughout the life of the asset.

I also think that general contractors who believe they can provide this service internally will ultimately fail because it’s not what they do; and it’s not what they are good at. It’s a completely different scope that should be left to the professional service providers—the same way they subcontract out the plumbing, painting, and millwork. But for them to recognize this they’ll have to face legal pressure brought by a subcontractor’s lawsuit.

And I think it will take at least another three years for owners to mandate it…maybe longer.

I appreciate any comments/feedback at ken@eco3dusa.com.

Ken Smerz


  • Ken,

    Your article sends a very important message that should be read by all contractors alike. I shall continue to spread the word . . .

    Thank you,
    Shari Kamimori, President
    3DVDT, Inc.

  • Ken,

    Thanks for your story. I completely agree with you that BIM are models of what the client would like to build. Having dealt with modeling in a variety of fields I know that models are at best approximations. Too many compromises and approximations need to produce a model in a timely manner. Using the model instead of true as-built information leaves much to be desired as you predicted and later discovered.

    We like to say “Models are hope, scans and photos are truth.”

    Accurate as-builts can have tremendous value over the lifetime of the building but unfortunately the Facility Managers, who would profit from the as-builts, are not a part of the build process. We need to get them more involved during design and construction so that they can help specify the level of as-built documentation provided.

    Ken VanBree, Owner
    e-Builts – Electronic as-builts for the construction industry.

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