Laser Scanning the Envelope

Laser scanning has its obvious uses in the BIM world, specifically within the mechanical, plumbing and HVAC trades. Anyone currently competing in this space and not using laser scanning and 3D modeling is missing not only a significant cost saving tool, but not looking to the future where soon all MEP as-found documentation work will be done this way.

One still somewhat untappedsome might say behind the times group is building envelope contractors. To clarify, a building envelope is any exterior covering that encapsulates the structure from its horizontal roofs to all the surrounding vertical walls. Why is this a great opportunity for laser scanning? Three reasons, with the first being somewhat obvious, envelopes have be constructed to very tight tolerances in order to seal out the weather. As a general rule of thumb, the last additions to the building are usually the tightest tolerance requirements (e.g. finish work, glazing).

The second is that architects are designing more free flowing structures that are very unconventional in design and shape. This puts a great strain on the contractor who needs the work, bids the job, and then has to figure out how to measure it.

The third and final reason is the materials being used are no longer brick and mortar, but more exotic materials like copper or zinc, or heavy stone panels designed to prevent bomb blasts.

Kovach Inc., is a specialty niche envelope contractor that covers the entire country, and is unique from the perspective that they do it all – design, fabricate, and install building envelopes. They regularly use laser scanning to assist in measuring building structures to capture the as-is condition of the substrate. Notice Im emphasizing the as-is condition, because if youve been in construction for more than 10 minutes you realize nothing is ever built to the exact drawing specifications. So to capture the actual condition allows you to mitigate costly mistakes and possible later rework.

Josh Simpson, Senior Project Manager at Kovach, who has used scanning for the last several years, says that laser scanning provides double digit savings on many of his projects. This technology has provided us with a significant competitive advantage. Not only from the fabrication and installation, but from offering our GC, architect, and owner with what turns out to be a quality installation the first time. And what this does for our reputation is help us get the next job.

Once the scan data has been acquired it is immediately taken through a proprietary drafting process where dimensional information that is fed into routing machines allows the panels to be cut to the specific building condition. The panels are then fabricated under strict quality control measures in the plant and then shipped to the jobsite. The product arrives on the jobsite with a coordinating panel map for the crews to complete the installation. Simpson says the crews basically piece together a giant jig-saw puzzle.

Examples of Kovach projects include the University of Arizona Health Science Education Building; The Colorado History Museum; Nashvilles huge new Music City Center; and many others.

Steve Kovach, owner of the 50 year old business commented, Laser scanning has provided us a fantastic cost savings tool, and ultimately assists us in exceeding our clients expectations.