Monthly Archives :
July 2018
PPM-at-SPAR-3D-Expo
584 270 Andy McFarland

Staying Ahead Of The Laser Scanning Curve At The SPAR Conference

3D Laser Scanning, As-Built Surveys, and Insights From The SPAR 3D Expo

Over the last 18 months, 3D laser scanning has radically changed the way we capture As-Built survey data at PPM. A process that used to take several days in the field using a handheld laser measuring device can now be completed in a matter of hours with a mobile laser scanner – and with far more data to show for it. The equipment and software are changing so fast, it has been a fun challenge catch up and keep up. We’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort to take advantage of the advancements in 3D laser scanners and AEC documentation, to the point we have even created a full-time Director of Survey Technology position at PPM to help us stay on the leading edge of this ever-evolving technology.

We are always on the hunt for new opportunities to learn about new developments in laser scanning, BIM, and CAD construction documentation. One of the events that we look forward to is the annual SPAR3D expo & conference. This event draws the leading companies and innovators across a broad range of 3D technology industries including laser scanning, BIM software, gaming, visualization, and more. In June, the SPAR3D conference came to Anaheim, and PPM was there. Greg (Director of Survey Technology), Colin (Field Service Director), and Mike (BIM Manager) joined Andy for the three-day event. We attended workshops, demoed new technology, and met with the leading companies in the 3D industry. Along the way, we identified a few prominent trends that stuck with us.

3D Laser Scanners Keep Getting Better and Cheaper, But PPM’s Favorite is Still the Zeb-Revo by GeoSLAM

PPM-As-Built-Surveyor-Measure-Home-Kitchen

PPM As-Built Surveyor using the Zeb-Revo for mobile 3D data capture.

If you have an interest in 3D laser scanning, there was no shortage of toys to play with at the SPAR3D conference. All the key players in the industry had a presence in the exposition hall, including Faro, Leica, Trimble, GeoSLAM, and more. One of the more interesting new scanners we saw was another mobile laser scanner from Paracosm that boasts full color in their point cloud data but took five times longer to process than other mobile solutions. After spending 3 days getting a first-hand look at all the new and existing equipment out there, it was clear to us that GeoSLAM’s Zeb-Revo is still the best tool for residential and commercial As-Built survey data capture. The Zeb-Revo is four times faster than traditional terrestrial laser scanner, provides extremely accurate 3D data, and comes at a relatively low price point – under $50K. It seems that PPM isn’t the only customer that has realized this, as GeoSLAM as a company has grown from 7 to 70 employees in just the last 18 months.

Scan-to-BIM Automation – Coming Your Way, Slowly but Surely

As much as 3D laser scanners have changed the way that PPM captures data in the field, there is still a very manual and time-consuming process that takes place after each scan. Our clients don’t want point cloud files – they want AutoCAD drawings or Revit models. One of our primary goals at the SPAR conference was to learn about any new software, “tech stacks,” that help to automate any step in the process of turning point clouds into architectural As-Builts. We saw demos from at least half a dozen middleware vendors including PointCab, PointSense by Faro, Pointfuse, 3DReshaper, and more. While there is still no, “magic bullet,” that will turn our point clouds into Revit models at the click of a button, we are beginning to look into some promising developments happening with point cloud rendering, surface recognition, and object meshes that can potentially save hours of time on each project.

Point Clouds are Awesome – But What Do I Do With All This Data?

PPM-Point-Cloud-3D-Survey

PPM’s As-Built drafters turn point cloud data into a Revit model

As we made the transition to 3D laser scanning at PPM, one challenge that we didn’t properly appreciate in the beginning was the radical change in data storage needs. Prior to laser scans, a typical PPM As-Built project contained a total of about 200–500 MB of data, and most of that was the photos that we take on every job. With all of the data that we get from our scanners, project sizes can get up to as high as 50 GB while they’re in production. Even after using more compressed file formats and other archiving techniques, with 3 laser scanners practically running around the clock, we are adding approximately 500 GB a month to our server. Clearly we aren’t the only ones experiencing this challenge, as there were several data storage services with a presence at the SPAR conference. The trend in the industry is to move this data to the cloud, which allows for more flexibility, scalability, and collaboration across teams in different physical locations. At PPM, we have just started implementing a cloud storage and collaboration tool called Egnyte, which will allow for scalable data storage that can be accessed from all of our locations (currently Long Beach, Oakland, and Salt Lake City).

In summary, the SPAR 3D Conference this year was jam-packed with new high-tech gear, software, processes, and a dizzying array of ideas to explore. Even with 4 people attending the event, we couldn’t cover everything in 3 days. But it definitely sparked a number of new initiatives that we plan to pursue in the months ahead… that is until SPAR 2019 comes around and we start all over again!

Interested in PPM’s 3D Laser Scanning systems and services? Send me an email at [email protected]

Thanks for reading.

An architect and a contractor review As-Built plans
576 384 Andy McFarland

It’s Summertime! The Busy Season For Beaches, Ballparks, Home Renovations and Of Course, As-Built Surveys

Your Summer Home Renovation Starts With An As-Built Survey

As The Temperature Rises, So Does The Volume of Construction Projects

As the calendar turns to July throughout the United States, home renovation and remodel projects are in full swing. Whether it’s the cranes that are taking over the downtown skylines, or the fenced-off construction projects you see driving through your neighborhood, the signs are everywhere. We take it for granted here in Southern California that in many parts of the country, there is a short season for getting renovation projects done – and we are right in the middle of it. The warm and dry summer periods are usually the friendliest time of the year for homeowners to plan and carry out home remodels, starting with an As-Built Survey. The data confirms it: Surveys have shown that over half of homeowners in the U.S. believe that summertime is the perfect time to renovate or improve their homes.

A PPM Surveyor Uses A Laser Scanner To Measure A Home

Well-Planned Remodels Start With Accurate As-Built Surveys

The nationwide data corresponds with what we have seen here in Southern California and the Bay Area at PPM. We work with hundreds of local architects, and since As-Built Surveys are the first step in a home renovation, we get a good pulse on what is happening out there in terms of new projects. As usual in 2018, our volume for new As-Built Survey requests in May and June increased by 20-30% compared to what we saw from February through April. Another trend we start to notice around this time is that our clients are in a rush to get started (even more than usual). It’s not uncommon for them to ask if we can get a surveyor out to their project within the next day or two after they call us. While we are always striving to be as quick as we can with our As-Built projects, unfortunately we usually aren’t able to get started that fast!   I remember when I was a kid I associated summer with fun, relaxation, and taking a break from school. Now, with the higher volume and quicker deadlines, summer is the busiest season at PPM – but that’s OK with me!

Planning a Remodel? 4 Tips To Help Make it a Little More “Worry Free”

It’s not just the summer season that is contributing to the high volume of construction projects right now – it’s also the strong real estate market (especially here in California), and a surging economy in general. So with all this demand out there for quality, professional architecture and construction services, the effect is that costs are going up, and it’s getting harder and harder to even find a professional that is available on short notice. To avoid getting caught in an expensive headache with your home remodel, here are some timely tips to planning your project.

  1. Be Mentally Prepared: Remodels are projects that task both the mental and physical faculties of those involved in them, regardless of the scope of the intended project as well as the individual or company involved. In the case of individual homeowners, tasks such as budget allocation, hiring the right architectural firm and handling some DIY projects can lead to major stress and even strained relationships. So the first priority is to prepare yourself both physically and financially for the long process of expansion or remodeling.
  2. Get Clear on What You Want: A good architect can certainly help you with creative ideas for your home renovations – that is exactly what you are paying them for. But you should have a pretty clear idea of what you want before you get serious about starting your project. Nothing will slow down a home remodel like indecision from the homeowners. The onus falls on you to do your research using home improvement journals, architectural magazines, home design websites like houzz.com, and more to get clear about exactly what it is you want to do with your home.
  3. Set a Realistic Budget. I talk to architects all the time, and they tell me that one of the biggest frustrations they have is when a homeowner contacts them with a completely unrealistic idea of what they can get for their money (like for example – add a 1,500 SF 2nd story to the house for $200,000). Your architect should know enough about construction costs to help guide down the right path, but they will need to know what your overall budget is for the project. Construction costs have risen in the last few years, so your budget might not go as far as you think. As a guideline, recently I have heard some numbers from contractors here in Southern California in the range of $250-350 per SF for home additions.
  4. Educate Yourself on the Process: In particular, there are 2 things that will be essential for your home remodel that your architect can help you with, but can be beneficial to do on your own if you want to be more involved with the process. First is learning about the permits that will be required from your city or county building department. Based on your project, they should be able to tell you right over the phone what the cost and process/timing should be for permitting. Second is obtaining accurate As-Built plans of your existing home. As-Built plans are obtained by taking real measurements of the existing structure, and then re-creating the plans (floor plans, exterior elevations, electrical components, etc…) either on paper or preferably in a digital format that is “architect-friendly” such as AutoCAD or Revit. All of the design and construction plans will be based on the As-Built plans, so it is critical that they be accurate (preferably within fractions of an inch) and include all the details needed for your particular project. The As-Builts can also be used by YOU, the homeowner, to help plan and draw your own remodel ideas before you start spending money on a professional.

Are You Ready to Start a Home Renovation? PPM Can Help With A Top-Notch As-Built Survey

For most people, their home is the biggest single financial investment they will make in their lifetime. Taking on a home renovation project can be stressful, but when it’s complete you get to enjoy the results for as long as you stay in the home – maybe even the rest of your life. Even if you move, the value that you have added to the home will likely pay off in the form of a higher sale price. At PPM, we take tremendous pride in the part that we get to play helping homeowners create their dream homes. It’s why our purpose is to help enable “Worry Free-Renovations”. Please Contact Us if you’d like to get a conversation started about your home remodel project and the essential first step – an As-Built Survey by Precision Property Measurements.

Thanks for Reading.