As-Built Services

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.

900 333 Andy McFarland

As-Built Surveys For Restoration Of Architectural Masterpieces

Long Beach Architecture Tour Featuring Mid-Century Pioneer Edward Killingsworth

 

Killingsworth commercial building used for Architectural Office Space

Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc.’s new office space in Long Beach, CA built by Architect Edward Killingsworth. Photo by Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai © JUERGEN NOGAI

It All Started with an As-Built Survey…

Over the course of 16+ years and 17,000 (give or take) As-Built surveys, there are certain projects that stand out.  Sometimes it’s for not-so-great reasons (like in 2005 when I left all my tools on a client’s front porch and had to drive back to Yorba Linda in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic), but much more often it’s because the project is really cool and we are proud to be a part of them. Like working on a restoration of an architectural masterpiece.  A few months ago we were contacted by one of our regular clients, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture Inc. with just such a project.  KSMA is an award-winning firm right here in Long Beach, specializing in residential, light commercial, cultural and urban planning projects.  They asked us to provide an updated survey of their headquarters in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach.

When Passion and Work Combine, Everybody Wins

As we began the process of scheduling the project, one of our surveyors, Daniel Noble, quickly volunteered for the assignment.  What Daniel knew is that the building was designed by the late Edward A. Killingsworth FAIA, a well-remembered prominent local architect who has been recognized as one of Southern California’s most celebrated architects, primarily known for his Mid-century Modern masterpieces.  Daniel grew up in Long Beach, admiring Killingsworth’s work, with an ever growing passion for all types of architecture, interior design and restoration on historical structures.  Daniel did a full interior and exterior survey of the 5,000 SF building on April 27th using one of PPM’s laser scanners. Over the next week, he developed a complete set of As-Built Floor Plans, RCP, Roof Plan, Exterior Elevations, and a Section drawing in AutoCAD.

 

Surveyor Daniel sitting at desk for drafing work at Precision Property Measurements

Daniel Noble shown at his drafting work station at Precision Property Measurement’s headquarters in Long Beach, CA.

 

PDF drawing of east view of exterior elevations for KSW Architecture office

Daniel’s sketch of the east Exterior Elevations view of the KSM Architecture Office.

 

The As-Builts are done – but the story is just beginning.

If this was any other project, PPM’s involvement would have ended at this point.  We hand off the As-Built survey to our client, wish them luck in their restoration project, and then move on to the next one.  But as luck would have it, right after measuring the KSM Office, Kelly shared an invitation with Daniel to experience an upcoming tour of several local buildings that Killingsworth designed. The event was hosted by the Historical Society of Long Beach, and each structure was generously opened to the public by its current owner.  Daniel very excitedly attended the tour on May 19th along with about 100 other attendees.

The first stop on the tour was the Killingsworth family home. This house was a “family project,” and was built by Ed, his wife Laura (who still lives there today), and their two sons. The home was built with Killingsworth’s iconic post and beam construction style, and is still cherished by the family today as the primary place to gather each Christmas.

 

 

The next stop on the tour was the Brady Home, which has been recently purchased by the artist Lewy Kallas. With a deep love for Killingsworth’s work and architectural style, Lewy intends to restore the home back to it’s original design, after previous owners have changed the style of the home through a variety of renovations.

 

 

The final stop on the tour was a commercial office building located at that is widely viewed as one of Killingsworth’s most impactful works of architecture. This building was originally built to be a law office for Clock, Waestman, Clock, and is now owned by Oren and Lauren Tanzer. Most of the building is occupied by their company, Summerjax, while one unit is rented out to realtor Nate Cole, who operated his business Unique California Property which specializes in the sale and purchase of custom unique homes. Several of his clients have been owners or buyers of Killingsworth-designed homes.  As you can see from the photos, Killingsworth wanted guests to really feel like they had arrived at the structure by creating this special feature at the building entry.

 

 

Architects Make Great Partners

The Killingsworth Architecture tour was a great way to connect with the iconic designs of a Long Beach legend.  More broadly, it really put into perspective the amazing work that our architect clients like Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA are doing every day to create beautiful and functional living and work spaces.  We are honored to be able to partner with these leading-edge firms as they transform our built environment.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

800 327 Andy McFarland

From Paper To Point Clouds: Laser Scanning Is An As-Built Paradigm Shift

Laser Scanning For As-Built Surveys Adds a Whole New Level of Efficiency

Human beings have been mapping the physical space around us (including topography, landmarks, structures, and even the stars) for thousands of years.  Throughout that time, we’ve employed a dizzying array of tools and instruments to get the job done.  Regardless of the tool, the principle behind gathering an accurate set of measurements always the same – identify a point in space and relate a lot of other points back to it.  As an As-Built service company for the last 16+ years, PPM has been focused on developing the most accurate and efficient way to do just that for our client’s renovation projects.  Last year, PPM took the next step in our evolution of As-Built surveying and started employing high-definition laser scanners on our projects.  These high-tech surveying instruments are helping us to capture and analyze much more building data, in much less time onsite.  It’s nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way that we create accurate As-Built drawings for our AEC clients.

 

The high-definition laser scanners we use for As-Built Surveying. GeoSLAM Zeb Revo (left) and Leica BLK360 (right).

 

Finding the right Laser Scanner for the Job

We tested several different mobile and terrestrial laser scanners for a full year before finally settling on these two devices that are the best fit for our projects:

  1. GeoSLAM Zeb Revo
    • Affectionately referred to in our office as “Reva,” this mobile scanner uses Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) algorithms to both move through a space and take 43,200 measurements per second all at once. This allows our surveyors to work quickly and accurately on-site. It’s become our best friend on the job and property owners love it because it’s fast and unobtrusive.
  2. Leica BLK360
    • Even though this little wonder can’t move and scan at the same time like Reva (it’s a “terrestrial” scanner), the BLK360 gathers more detail, panoramic photos, and even thermal data in every scan. Although it takes a little longer in the field, the BLK360 laser scanner can be operated in nearly all conditions, and provides us with almost every bit of information we need for our As-Built surveys.

For output, both devices create a 3D “digital twin” of the buildings and property they scan. These large data sets are called Point Clouds, and this data is what our drafters use to create extremely precise As-Built plans in CAD or BIM software.

 

Live photo (top left), image from Zeb Revo Scan (top right), image from BLK Scan (bottom left), and Revit 3D As-Built (bottom right).

 

How Has Laser Scanning For As-Builts Helped PPM and Our Customers?

  • Increased Efficiency: Creating accurate As-Builts relies on a precise relation of measurements to each other, in 3 dimensions.  PPM has always used an air-tight method to do this, but it required a lot of time on-site to gather and record the measurements.  Employing laser scanners cuts the time on-site by 70-90%.
  • More As-Built Information: The large Point Cloud data sets gathered by the scanners gives us nearly every measurement of a building – not just the ones we need to create a floor plan or an elevation. This has enabled us to help our clients gain access to additional information and drawings they didn’t know they needed until after we completed their job – all without needing a re-visit to the site.
  • Scalability: It’s no secret that the architecture industry is moving toward Revit and other BIM software for drawing and design. All this additional data gathered on-site has made it easier for us to utilize the power of BIM to create As-Builts. Good 3D data is essential to any BIM model.  In addition, the scanners come equipped with a lot of extras. One we’re excited about is thermal imaging on the BLK360.  This technology could enable us to provide valuable energy efficiency data to our clients when that functionality is fully available.

 

 

Laser Scanned As-Built Surveys, Still Delivered “Worry-Free”

PPM has always been all about helping our clients achieve Worry-Free Renovations.  It’s been our purpose for over 16 years and 17,000 As-Built projects.  The implementation of laser scanning into the PPM process allows us to provide you with even more accurate As-Built building data, in less time and with less of an impact on you and your client’s schedules and project timelines.  We are excited to continue to push forward with new surveying technologies, and we look forward to sharing more about how we are using laser scanners on our As-Built surveying projects with this blog in the months and years ahead.

899 267 Andy McFarland

What Is An As-Built Survey?

What is an As-Built Survey?

The Most Critical Part of your Remodel That You’ve Never Heard Of.

It happens all the time, even after 16+ years in business.  Someone asks me “What do you do for work?”, and I tell them that PPM provides As-Built surveys to architects and other design and construction professionals.  Unless I’m talking to someone in the industry, the next question is almost always “What is an As-Built survey?” Now I get a chance to once again practice the response that I have carefully refined over hundreds of conversations:  “We measure the inside and outside of a building with very accurate lasers, and then create a drawing which shows the exact dimensions and layout of the building.  That’s an As-Built survey.”  At this point when I have finished this basic explanation, I have found there is an approximate 50/50 chance that the person will either want to ask more questions about the lasers, or change the subject.

 

Frank scanning home with a Zeb-Revo Scanner

The hand-held Zeb-Revo scanner, made by GeoSLAM, is used to collect the most accurate level of data from each survey.

“I Have These Old Drawings of my Building – Are They As-Builts?”

Most people have seen blueprints of a building at one time or another.  A typical blueprint is a design drawing, which shows the intended or proposed layout of the building.  An As-Built drawing, as the name suggests, shows the current layout of the building “as it was built”.  As-Builts do not deal with the hypothetical but instead with the actual.  This is a critical distinction, because a constructed building almost never corresponds exactly to the original design drawings. For this reason, when starting a new remodel project on a residential or commercial building, the architect will almost always create or commission an As-Built survey, rather than trying to rely on existing building plans. Discovering an error on the plans that can result in additional costs or delays to the project is just too big of a risk to take.

 

An As-Built By Any Other Name Is Still An As-Built

The architectural and construction industries are continuing to settle on the term “As-Built” to describe the process and the resulting plans that come from measuring an existing building.  But at PPM we have found that there are still several different terms and spellings used when referring to As-Built drawings.  These include:

  • Site Survey
  • Existing Conditions Drawings
  • Record Drawings
  • Measured Drawings
  • Asbuilt (Asbuilt Drawings, Asbuilt Plans, Asbuilt Survey, etc..)
  • As-Build or Asbuild (Drawings, Plans, Survey, etc…)

 

Lead Surveyor Frank steps into home to measure for As-Builts for a successful Remodel

We are your trusted professional resource for assisting with a successful start to any remodel project.

What Is An As-Built Survey? It’s What We Do!

16 years ago, I was probably one of those people that would have changed the subject if someone starting talking about As-Built surveys.  Now, they are how I and the other 25 people here at PPM make our living.  Helping our clients, and their clients, to have a Worry Free renovation experience using PPM’s As-Built plans is the Purpose that drives us each day.  To me, the value of good As-Built drawings is self-evident:  It’s why architects and other industry professionals keep calling PPM to help them get a great start on their remodel projects.

Give us a call today if you are interested in A Better Plan for your As-Builts.

576 321 Andy McFarland

WORRY-FREE RENOVATIONS

How Great As-Built Surveys Lead to Worry-Free Renovations

On the simplest level, PPM is an As-Built surveying company.  That’s what we do.  However, what motivates us and keeps us working towards our goals goes far beyond just providing As-Builts.  Don’t get me wrong – the WHAT is important.  Every company needs a WHAT – in terms of a product or service – in order to get clients and stay in business.  But over time, it’s the WHY that keeps everyone engaged and working towards the same goals.  The WHY includes things like a company’s Core Values, Mission, and Purpose.  At PPM, lately we have been talking more and more about our Purpose and how it drives all of the decisions and actions that we take as a company.  What is our Purpose?  To help enable “Worry-Free Renovations.”

Our Worry-Free Approach – Since Day One

The concept of Worry-Free Renovations has been a part of PPM’s soul since our founding in 2002, and in fact is the reason why PPM even became an idea and then a company in the first place.  This ideal – to have a smooth and trouble-free renovation (remodel, addition, tenant improvement, landscape project, etc.) is something desired by all parties involved in the process.  But it remains frustratingly difficult to achieve, as most people who have been through a remodel will attest. Renovation projects by their nature are big, complicated, and messy.  Everyone understands this when they decide to undertake one. But what makes a renovation project so frustrating and worrisome is when something doesn’t go as planned.  If you’re told a project will take 6 months but it ends up taking 9.  Or if a problem is encountered during construction that causes the cost to increase by 20%.  That is when the stress and the worry really starts to ramp up.

 

Start Your Renovation With A PPM Worry-Free As-Built Survey

And that is where PPM comes in.  PPM started providing As-Built surveys for a few landscape architects in Southern California for exactly this reason.  It was (and still is) a common problem for these professionals to have difficulty obtaining accurate, complete, and reliable site plans that fit the project budget.  With a lack of attractive options, they resorted to inadequate “solutions” – such as using incomplete or inaccurate plans, or trying to get by with no As-Built plans at all. The result?  Bad or incomplete information that caused delays, cost overruns, plan changes, and other negative consequences.  Hardly a Worry-Free experience.  PPM’s purpose was to eliminate those problems by giving these customers a much better option with our professional As-Built drawings, thereby allowing them to start off their projects with everything they needed to execute confidently on their design ideas.

Our As-Built Surveyor using the 3D laser scanner on a current project.

PPM is using the latest in As-Built survey technologies for your renovation project, such as the Laser Scanner that produces detailed 3D plans.

Your Renovation Project’s Best Chance of Success

Fast forward 16+ years and that is still exactly what PPM is doing, and the reason why we still exist.   The clients and projects have evolved, but the driving purpose of helping to enable Worry-Free Renovations remains the same.  As As-Built Surveyors, we sit at the very beginning of the renovation process, so our service can be thought of as the first link in a chain that will extend for many months/years, and will involve many other consultants.  We can’t control what happens to the rest of the “chain” after our portion of the project is complete – but we CAN say that we are giving the project the BEST chance for success, the BEST chance to be “Worry-Free”, if we deliver great As-Builts with outstanding service.  This is our goal for every project, and the Purpose that will continue to sustain for the next 16 years and beyond.

Fill Out Our Easy To Use On-Line Quote Form

Are you interested in a Worry-Free As-Built Experience on your next project?  Fill out our QUOTE form for a fast, free estimate and consultation with a PPM project representative.  See how working with PPM can save you and your clients time and money on their renovation project.

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We want the best As-Built Surveyors. Here’s how we find them.

How To Find The Best As-Built Surveyors

At Precision Property Measurements, our Multi-Site survey programs depend on our ability to get a qualified As-Built surveyor onsite, at every location that our client needs As-Built plans.  We have done surveys in all 50 states, in just about every nook and cranny of the United States.  If you threw a dart at a U.S. map (which you should NOT try at home, kids) the odds are that PPM has completed As-Built drawings for a building within 50 miles of the spot you hit – provided that you didn’t hit an ocean, of course.

This means that we need a LOT of professional As-Built surveyors on our team in order to service these big national programs. The cost and time of travel, particularly to smaller towns, is prohibitive for the types of site surveys that our clients need, and the speed with which they need them. So our goal is to have a qualifiedcapable, and available surveyor within 100 miles of all the large/medium size population centers in America. In areas where demand is particularly high we need two or more surveyors.  We aren’t all the way there, but we are close – we currently have over 500 surveyors in our network, of which about 100 that we are actively working with.  This map shows the locations of our current survey coverage.

How does an As-Built surveyor become a part of the PPM team?

The first step is finding each other!  We have numerous ways to do this including website job ads, referrals from other surveyors, internet searches, and more.  We also get inquiries all the time from prospective surveyors that have heard about us, or find us through an internet search.  However that connection is made, the first thing we ask them to do is fill out this application on our website.  The application asks them some basic questions about their experience, As-Built tools and methods, availability, and more.  We take this information and we give the surveyor a rating of “High, Mid, or Declined”, based on our assessment as to whether or not this person is someone that we think could meet the high standards our client’s expect, and therefore is someone we could potentially work with on our As-Built projects.  Only about 15% of all applicants receive a “High” score at this phase.  But there are still several more hurdles to clear before someone can officially become a “PPM Surveyor”.  Here’s what happens next in our onboarding process:

  1. We schedule a phone call with the prospective surveyor. They speak with either our Director of Field Services, or our Field Manager, and we further assess their ability level and fit with our standards of communication, quality, customer service, etc…
  2. If they pass, we flag them for a test project. But before we do any tests we do another call to go over any other questions, the specifics of working with us, wrap up the legal stuff, what we expect of our surveyors…etc.  At this point they begin their “probationary” period.
  3. Then comes the first test survey project. We either have them survey a building we have already completed (so that we can compare the results), or if this is not possible due to location we give them a very simple new live As-Built project.
  4. When they turn in the project, we do a full review of the As-Built plans, comparing them against previous plans, client-provided plans, photos, etc… We then schedule another call with the surveyor so that we can talk about the results, provide feedback, and understand the reasons for any issues they may have had with accuracy, detail, or anything else. They may not have completely understood our expectations, so we want to make sure there isn’t any miscommunication about what we expect on any future projects.
  5. Depending on the results and discussion of this first test project, both parties make the decision whether to pursue more projects together. Our relationship continues with about 50% of the surveyors that make it to this point.
  6. If there is mutual agreement to proceed, then the surveyor continues their probationary period for 2 additional projects, which receive more feedback in the same manner. Again, alignment of expectations and culture are the primary focus.
  7. Assuming everything goes well with the last 2 test projects, the probationary period ends and we move them to our normal roster of “PPM Surveyors”. At this point our Project Managers are free to work with them as needed.

A PPM Surveyor in action

Add it all up and only about 1 out of every 25 applicants will become a PPM Surveyor. This Onboarding process is definitely time consuming for us, and it can be frustrating when we think we have a great new surveyor but things just don’t work out, and we have to start all over with someone new. But we feel (and we have learned from experience) that a gauntlet such as this is necessary if we want to uphold the high standards of quality and professionalism that we are known for.  The performance of our As-Built surveyors is a critical component in our ability to fulfill our promise to our clients – so we want to make sure we are working with the Best!

Thanks for reading!  Please share any comments or questions you have below.

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An Overview of The Most Commonly Requested As-Built Drawings By Architects

The Five Most Common As-Built Drawings for Architects

From the architect’s viewpoint (and certainly from the building owner’s), every remodel project is unique. Both the inputs (existing building conditions, local codes, budget) as well as the outputs (new design/materials) are different every time – and when these 2 factors are combined into a complete project, the possibilities for architects are truly endless.  Honestly I don’t know how they do it!

For the As-Built surveyor, however, we typically only have to deal with variances on 1 of these 2 factors: the inputs. It is our job to survey the existing building, and so we certainly have to be prepared to handle the wide variety of types, sizes, and other factors that make each building unique. But the other factor, the outputs, are fairly standardized for us. Our client, the architect, wants us to create a standard set of As-Built drawings that accurately depict the existing layout of the building. Of course these drawings can be customized with styles or details if the client desires, but for the most part we are producing the same output on all of our projects.

With over 12,000 As-Built surveys completed in the last 15 years, we have acquired a pretty good sense of what our architecture clients are looking for with their As-Built plans. Here’s a brief list of the five most common drawings that we get asked for on remodel projects:

FLOOR PLAN

It all starts here.  You need to get an accurate Floor Plan before you can get most other drawings, because they need to tie back to the floor plan.  A good As-Built Floor Plan shows all exterior and interior walls, windows and doors, as well as other visible structural elements such as columns and stairs.  Any other required details can be added as needed, or shown on a separate plan.

ROOF PLAN

This is a required As-Built Plan on most of our projects, particularly residential remodels.  The Roof Plan should show the outline of the roof overlaid on top of the building perimeter walls, and include roof structural details including valleys, hips, ridges, and pitch.  Equipment can also be added, particularly for flat commercial roofs.

EXTERIOR ELEVATIONS

As opposed to a “plan view” drawing where the perspective is looking down on the building, an elevation shows what the building looks like from the side.  Exterior Elevations are As-Built drawings that show the exterior sides of the building, from ground level up to the top of the structure.  Together with the Floor Plan and Roof Plan, the Exterior Elevations round out the typical set of As-Built plans that most of our architecture clients ask for on their projects.

REFLECTED CEILING PLAN

The Reflected Ceiling Plan, or “RCP”, is an As-Built drawing that shows both the structure of the ceiling (soffits, trays, coffers, exposed beams) as well as the elements attached to it (lights, vents, sprinklers).  The RCP helps the architect understand how the ceiling is constructed, as well as what existing electrical and HVAC components are there for consideration with the remodel.

ELECTRICAL PLAN

The Electrical Plan shows all of the visible electrical equipment, components and fixtures in the structure.  This includes things like meters, panels, transformers, outlets, data jacks, lights, etc…  We get asked to include an As-Built Electrical Plan on about 25% of our projects.

Taken together, these As-Built Plans show the architect a pretty comprehensive view of what the existing building looks like, and how it is constructed.  In addition to these 5, there are many more useful As-Built drawings that we provide at PPM.  For a full list of the As-Built drawings and As-Built services that we offer at PPM, check out our services page.

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It’s All About “Multi Site”! Nationwide As-Built Survey Programs

Multi-Site As-Built Programs

Last week we started a new As-Built site survey program for McDonald’s (which you may have seen on PPM’s Facebook or LinkedIn pages).  We surveyed 6 locations in Oklahoma City, and we are just finishing up these “pilot” As-Built drawings for our client.  7 years ago if you would have told me that PPM would be measuring McDonald’s in Oklahoma, I would have told you to cut back on the glue-sniffing.  This expansion of our business obviously didn’t happen overnight, and this new survey program got me thinking about everything that has happened went before this step, and all that we have learned over the years about “Multi Site” survey programs such as this.

It started in 2009.  Up to that point, since our founding in 2002, we had worked exclusively on “Single Site” projects, meaning a single location (such as a house or commercial building) for an architect client.  But just as that market was really drying up with the recession, we were approached by a new potential client that needed to get As-Builts for a bunch of Long’s Drugstores (remember them?).  Long’s had just been acquired by CVS, and our client was managing the “rebranding” of those stores.  So over the next 4 months, we ended up measuring about 60 locations in San Diego and the Bay Area. It was a great survey program for us at a very opportune time, but we also realized quickly that it was not scalable or even sustainable – Colin and I did every single one ourselves on weekends, nights, and whatever time we had in between our other “regular” projects.

But that program showed us the opportunity that existed for nationwide As-Built surveying. So since then, we have hired more people and developed a network of 50-100 professional As-Built surveyors distributed throughout the U.S, so that we can offer our services in every major metro area of the U.S. without needing to travel.  But more importantly, we have fine-tuned the processes – such as project management, quality assurance, administration, etc… – that enable us to deliver a consistently high quality As-Built product and first-rate service to nationwide retail clients.

Here are a few of the common questions we hear about Multi Site Programs, and some things we have learned in our experiences:

Q:  What is a Multi Site As-Built Survey Program?

We define “Multi Site” as anything with multiple locations with the same client, type of space, scope of work, and deliverable output.  They can be regional or nationwide. Even within this we further define 2 varieties:

  • Traditional Multi Site – (A large batch of locations with regular scheduling, weekly delivery targets, etc.)
  • Recurring Single Multi Site – (one location released at a time, as needed by client)

Q:  Who are the Clients?

We are typically measuring stores for national or regional brands. The most common clients are retail, restaurant, and banking. Our client can be the corporate brand itself, a 3rd party design/construction firm, or even a further level down the chain (such as a fixture manufacturer/installer).

Q:  Why are they needed?

Most common uses for an As-Built site survey would be some kind of remodel project such as a store rebrand/redesign (the entire store or just a portion). Often this is due to a merger/acquisition with another company (such as the Long’s / CVS program) or a brand new store opening. Other uses include custom fixture installation and facilities management.

Q: What is the typical scope of work /output

That is the beauty of these programs, it is completely customizable to what the client needs for their specific project. Typically we are asked for As-Built Floor Plan, RCP, basic MEP info, and other info such as photos or custom site survey info. Sometimes the client already has their Scope of Work and As-Built plan standards figured out, but often they don’t so we work with them to help dial it in. Then we can produce it exactly that same way for every location nationwide.

Q:  What are the main challenges?

  • Project Management – This is completely different from what is required on a single location survey. Our client is literally coordinating hundreds or even thousands of remodels based on our survey output and workflow, so our scheduling, communication, tracking, and administration need to be proactive and 100% reliable.
  • Workflow Processes – When you are surveying 1 location you can rely on your skill and experience alone to produce a great product. You can improvise when needed.  This is not the case with Multi Site programs.  All processes need to be documented, repeatable, and scalable.  It is the only way you can produce consistent output every time, no matter who does the work.
  • Team/Workforce – You need to have the right surveyors in the right places. But just as important, you need a balanced and effective internal team of Project Management, Drafting, QA, Customer Service, and Administrative staff to coordinate and execute all aspects of the program.
  • Clients – We love our clients – but often they don’t even know what they want or need! But this is not their fault, they just haven’t ever seen it done the right way before.  Working with clients can be a challenge, but it is incredibly rewarding to help them transform the way they run their redesign programs.

Q:  What are the main advantages?

  • Focus/Specialty – When you get a chance to survey hundreds of similar locations for the same client, it really gives you a chance to innovate and orchestrate your processes for maximum efficiency.
  • Fewer Clients – Working with a smaller number of clients you can give more attention to each one. It allows you to be more attentive and obtain a much deeper understanding of your client’s needs.
  • Scalability – Since Multi Site survey programs involve so many locations, you get a lot more volume for each new program. This allows the business to scale much quicker than you do by signing up one location at a time.

It has not been an easy road to enter this market, and we have made mistakes to be sure.  We have learned through trial and error over the course of 20+ nationwide As-Built survey programs, and 5,000+ individual locations surveyed.  But through hard work, a willingness to learn, and unwavering commitment to satisfying our clients, Multi Site projects are now 2/3 of our business.  Over the next few articles we will go into the details of starting and running a large As-Built Survey program that upholds our purpose as a company – “Worry Free Renovations”.

Do you have a Multi Site survey program to discuss?

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Step 3 For A Simply Way To Measuring A House For Renovation

How To Measure A House For An As-Built Survey – Step 3

If you have read my previous articles, you are now well on your way to creating an accurate As-Built floor plan.  To recap, I covered the first two steps in those blogs:

  1. Preparation
  2. Measuring

With this article we will cover the 3rd and final step of a basic As-Built survey – Drafting.  This is the crucial step where you take all of your field information (sketches, measurements, photos, etc…) and turn it into an accurate, useable floor plan drawing.  For the purpose of this article I will be covering the drafting process using a CAD software program, such as AutoCAD, although the same basic principles and processes could apply to hand-drafting as well (it would just take longer).

Unlike a design drawing, where everything fits perfectly according to the architect’s vision, an As-Built drawing is never “perfect”.  This is because it comes from a real, existing building – and buildings are not built perfectly. Corners are not exactly 90°, surfaces are not perfectly linear, wall thicknesses are not precisely uniform, and so on.  But no architect that I know wants an As-Built drawing that shows all of these 1/16” or .01° imperfections – it would make the plans much more difficult to work with.  So the goal of the As-Built surveyor is not to eliminate error (which is more or less impossible anyways), but rather to minimize error, by establishing a tolerance and knowing where and how to make minor adjustments to their field data which results in the best overall As-Built plan.  For this reason, drafting is where the true skill and craftsmanship of the experienced As-Built surveyor are on full display.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn!

Before we get started with the process, just a couple more things related to the general “philosophy” of good As-Built drafting:

  • Think about what tolerance you are comfortable with – or in other words how much you are willing to adjust your measurements.  In some cases 2-3″ might be OK for you depending on how you intend to use the As-Built plans.  For me, since I am measuring with a precise laser device and since I’ve been doing this for awhile, I don’t want to make any adjustments more than 1/2″.
  • When you do make adjustments, try to make them to the longer and/or less critical measurements.  So for example if you need to make a 1″ adjustment to make something fit, don’t make it to the 3′ door opening (which is a standard size) – make it to the adjacent 10′ wall segment.
  • Always look for symmetry/consistency in the building as you are drafting. Buildings aren’t put together randomly – they are intentionally designed and constructed to be structurally sound and functional, as well as beautiful.  So for example you might notice as you are drafting that an exterior door in the back is only 1/2″ away from being aligned on center with the front door entrance.  Consider making the adjustment so they align perfectly on your As-Built.

OK OK you got it and you’re ready to draft your house!  Here’s a step-by-step process you can use:

  1. Draw the exterior perimeter of the house.  Start in one corner and go all the way around back to where to you started.  At this point you will have a “closing error” on the X and Y axis.  Hopefully if the house is square and your measurements were good you are within about 1-3″ on each axis (any more than that and you might want to consider remeasuring – depending on the tolerance you are comfortable with). You will need to make adjustments to some measurements to reconcile that closing error – but which way should you adjust?  Should you make a measurement on one side of the house longer?  Or make one on the other side shorter?  Or a little of both?  Don’t make that decision just yet – hang tight and proceed to the next step.

 

Exterior perimeter drafted with Closing Error in upper right.

  1. Draw and adjust the “primary” interior walls.  Start by offsetting the exterior wall line to show the thickness of those walls, and then use more offsets to place the main horizontal and vertical walls in the house, including those wall thicknesses also.  The goal here is to see how well the interior measurements fit within your exterior perimeter – this way you will know which way to adjust the Closing Error on the exterior.
    • For example, if there are 5 primary vertical walls across the X axis of the house, and the last dimension is coming out 2″ short, then you know you should adjust your exterior measurements in the direction that helps minimize that error on the interior.
    • Make all necessary adjustments to all walls to minimize the amount of adjustment that you make to any one measurement.  For example don’t adjust one measurement by 2″, adjust multiple measurements by 1/2″ to make it fit.
    • You can also use your interior “overall measurements” (explained in my last blog) at this stage to give you even more guidance as to which way to make minor adjustments.
    • This is the KEY Step for maximum accuracy!  When this step is done you are 90% done with the project – everything else is just putting a bow on it.

 

Primary interior walls drafted with wall thickness. Clouded areas are telling me where to make adjustments.

  1. Draft the rest of the walls and door openings.  Now that the primary walls are all placed and adjusted, this should be easy.  You will still likely need to make some minor adjustments as you go, but primary walls should not have to move again if done correctly.

 

All walls and door openings drafted and adjusted where necessary

  1. Add windows and doors.  Draw in these elements or better yet use blocks.
  2. Clean up the drawing.  One of my pet peeves is sloppy As-Builts!  Look around for any lines that need to be fileted, extended, trimmed, deleted, or anything else.  Make it look great!
  3. Quality Assurance.  Look through your photos and your go over your entire sketch one more time to make sure there isn’t anything you may have missed or drawn incorrectly.
  4. Add any final details.  Annotations/labels, dimensions, title block info, or anything else that you want to add to the plan.

 

Final drawing with blocks, millwork, plumbing fixtures, annotations and dimensions

Well, that’s it!  You have now created an accurate As-Built floor plan of a house.  Like anything else in life it takes practice, and I obviously couldn’t cover everything in these articles but I hope that you got something out of it and are willing to give it a shot.

Now if you care to return the favor I would love to hear what you think, or if you have any questions, suggestions, or praise in the comments below.