The Business Of Laser Scanning: General Contractors…Exposed?

A 263Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

There’s a significant growing end user group in the laser scanning community –general contractors. More clearly, self-performing general contractors. This is the a unique group within the GC world that performs some scope of the project themselves, and this case has made the investment in a laser scanner to use internally to support their workflows.

The decision to purchase versus hiring an outside firm is mostly driven because these companies, aside from having the cash to invest, see the `3d world’ as the future in their industry. They’ve recognized the need to adapt or face slow death. [I agree 100%.] So they purchase the scanner, then typically promote one of their young guns who grew up in the computer age–particularly 3d–and create a Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) unit within their company. The VDC group then lives in the world of Building Information Modeling (BIM) on their projects.

Other general contractors made the investment because they are unwillingly being dragged into the 3d world by the owners. Ironically, most owners aren’t educated enough to legitimately utilize all that BIM has to offer in a handover package. And I’m not aware of any owner that has figured out that they can hold everyone accountable for their project quality and deliverable by using laser scanning against the BIM. I digress.

And yet other GC’s purchased a laser scanner and basically use it as a marketing tool by creating sexy fly-through videos, or 3d models, in order to land the next job. They can woo the owner/architect and provide justification as to why they should award them the contract.

Regardless of why they’ve purchased a scanner, the common component is that all of these GC’s are being sucked into the BIM world. And if BIM is being maximized, it falls under the umbrella of Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD. The caveman definition of IPD is "Everyone working together in a collaborative environment to support each other, collectively achieve project milestones, and openly share information." Basically the same thing you were told in kindergarten, "play nice" In construction that means the A/E’s, contractors, and owners are expected to all get along. (That’s funny.)

So here’s the question: "If the GC is controlling the project and also in charge of generation of scan data to create a 3d model, are they liable if the data they provide is inaccurate and causes my company a significant loss on the project?"

I can’t answer that question, and will leave that to our well-oiled judicial system. Nonetheless, GC’s (and other providers) need to have a strategy in place to reduce their exposure. The liability faced by the GC’s doing their own scanning is substantially reduced if they are well trained.

The benefits of training and continuous training include:
Reduces likelihood for error…and subsequent litigation
The technology is evolving rapidly… you need to keep up to date
Enhances the GC’s leadership role on the project
Provides much greater short and long term ROI from your VDC/BIM Team

What should you look for in a training partner? Whether it’s a manufacturer or a service provider, the laser scanning end user should make certain that their training partner meets the following criteria:
Recognized in the industry–with project specific, and applicable experience
A company with direct experience working with multiple hardware and software platforms, and that is not exclusively engaged with a single source or platform
Provides legitimate testing and documentation of the training
Has a plan that they can articulate as to how they are staying at the front edge of technology

Our industry is still very small and there are a boatload of new adopters. The better we collectively work to educate each other, the faster we can all scale and prosper.

Ken Smerz is the President of President/ CEO of Eco3d ( a service provider that travels throughout the nation working with A/E/C and forensic clients. He can be reached at with any questions or comments you might have.

A 263Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

About the Author

Ken Smerz

Ken Smerz... CEO of Precision 3d, has worked the past 24 years within the construction industry as a licensed contractor and business executive throughout the western U.S. Upon discovering laser scanning, 3d imaging, BIM, Ken recognized an emerging market opportunity to provide consultation in a 3d world. Relying on his past experience and entrepreneurial spirit, he has positioned Precision 3d as one of the largest national providers of laser scanning and other 3d imaging services. His team of professionals specializes primarily in the Architectural/Engineering/Contractor marketplace as well as forensic investigation. The key to their business model is to provide exceptional customer service in helping clients achieve their specific goals.
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