Site & Scope Visits: How to get the most for your money

The amount of time and money spent on site and scope trips can get out of hand if you don’t have a plan walking onto the project site. There are several ways to cut down on these expenses while maintaining a high level of confidence in the data collected.

“There’s a lot of prep work and planning involved in a site and scope visit,” said Travis Hager, SGA Design Group Principal. “You have to go in with an understanding of what the client’s goals are and what information you need to bring back.”

Strategy and efficiency is the name of the game for getting the most out of your site trips.

“Our goal is always to gather as much accurate information as possible in a single visit,” Hager explained.

Planning before you go

Before you leave the office, it’s important to have a plan and orient yourself with the site. That is much easier to do today than in years past with the help of Google Maps and Google Earth. Spend time going through Google Maps images of the site to familiarize yourself with how to get around the site and even where utilities are.

“Before going out to the site, I use Google Maps to make notes about where points of interest are and prepare preliminary drawings of exterior walls to better facilitate getting dimensions in the field,” said Eric Miller, SGA Design Group Senior Associate. “This gives me a base to start from, so when I get to the field, I can be as efficient and methodical as possible.”

Creating a system on site

Once on site, it’s important to have a process to remain as efficient as possible while there as well as when you get back to the office. Digital photos serve as a record of the building to reference for structural engineering, MEP systems, and architectural design including accessibility compliance.

By using a systematic process, each photo within the folder has context within the whole. “When I go out on a site, the first thing I do is document it through photographs, in a clockwise manner. When I collect dimensions, room sizes, and building conditions, I have an overall feel for what the building is like,” Miller said.

Coming back with a well-organized collection of photos documenting the site adds additional benefits. “Numerous times, we’ve come back from the site and been asked additional questions about something we weren’t previously looking for,” said SGA Associate, David Haraway. “Being able to go through the photos documenting the site has enabled us to answer those questions without taking another trip to the site.”

For this purpose, a system for taking photos is essential. “The number of photos that get taken on a job can be upwards of several thousand,” said Andrew Brister, Director of Operations for GreenLight 360, an SGA solution partner. “If you talk about a 200,000-square-foot project, that’s a lot of data to cover. If you have no system for this, you’ll get lost when you come back into the office.”

You can also take things a step further, so your team back in the office has a real sense of being on the site. Shooting 360-degree photos with a small, hand-held camera, means your team can see everything in context and get a feel for the space they’re designing within.

After documenting the building, it’s time to go back through to take measurements. Historically this was done on paper, but today everything has gone digital from our tape measures to the tablets we’re using to document as we go.

“Now everyone has a laser measure called DISTO and a digital note pad, where we’re making all those analog notations in this digital platform for all these types of scoping trips,” said Brister.

Going high tech for more efficiency

Using a tablet instead of paper to capture measurements in the field means those back in the office no longer have to wait for the person traveling to return, but can instead have that data the same day. However, all of the pictures and measurements still exist separately from each other, causing unnecessary digging.

Laser scanning came on the scene some time ago as an option that was initially very expensive and took a significant amount of time. As with every other technology, laser scanning is quickly advancing, increasing accuracy and decreasing cost and time.

Laser scanning technologies are streamlining and expediting site and scope trips to construction sites by increasing the volume and accuracy of collected data for client reports while decreasing trip time, frequency, and expense. Yet these digital applications and cameras are far from AI robots. So the human element of advanced planning for site/scope trips is still required to maximize their efficiency.

Co-founded by SGA and Brister, GreenLight 360 uses the NavVis M6 scanning cart and Leica GeoSystems tripod-based laser scanners to record 360-degree images of buildings that give clients digital walkthroughs of buildings that contain much more context than photos alone.

The NavVis M6 cart uses SLAM, or Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, based technology, reducing the time spent in field. The NavVis M6 is a cart based laser scanner that gets pushed through a space, recording data points, 360-degree photos, and measurement information, as it’s moving through the space. “This newer technology reduces our time in the field by two-thirds,” said Brister. “Where it would take someone three days to do a job in a traditional scanning sense, we can do it in one with the SLAM system. The scanner is collecting 360-degree data every tenth of a second, which means it can collect 2,000-3,000 points a minute.”

If you haven’t had anything scanned in the past 10 years, you might be wondering how that amount of data is even usable when your goal is to create a set of as-built drawings for your current project. The data that’s collected is turned into a highly usable point-cloud that you can filter to see wall sections, floor plans, and elevations to help guide you while creating your drawings.

The information also gets loaded into the NavVis IndoorViewer, giving you a complete 360-degree walk-through of your space. Additional information can be loaded into each building scan within the IndoorViewer to create a complete digital twin. For example, following completion of the scan,  additional pictures of electrical panels can be taken and uploaded directly into the IndoorViewer where remain accessible to all stakeholders, who are afforded increased information and context about what is there.

Making the jump to laser scanning also adds additional safety to your scope trips. Getting measurements of roofs and gutters, as well as other objects around the outside of the roof, has always been a danger. Using small aerial drones, remote controlled from the ground and equipped with a laser scanner, are helpful for observation and documentation of hazardous parts of the site. The data collected from these scans can also be integrated into the NavVis IndoorViewer to add another element to the digital twin of your building.

“Using a drone, we can map out the entirety of the roof to collect its dimensions to report back to the office. Once the majority of the information is collected, we can go up on the roof for a limited amount of time to collect additional data such as rooftop unit manufacturer tag plate information and the condition of the roof itself,” said Brister. “You can spend an hour to four or five hours on top of a roof, depending on the size of the building, or you can send a drone up for about twenty minutes, get a scan, and spend ten to fifteen minutes collecting data, taking a few ancillary pictures, making notes, and returning to the ground.”

With today’s advancing technology, you have more options than ever to increase the efficiency and safety of your site and scope trips while gathering more accurate data than ever before.