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Owning a building means you're responsible for something that's both an asset and a liability. On one hand, you are the steward for a huge amount of value. But you're also in charge of defending the property from risk. 

101 Federal Street in Boston was a project that we were proud to work on because we "saved their building," in a sense. The building is an iconic 31 story high rise (381 feet high), designed by storied architecture firm Kohn Peterson Fox. It features a postmodern design with Indiana Limestone exterior panels. Housing some of Boston’s most prestigious firms, the building was completed in 1988 and has been fully occupied since. It was an honor to work on this project and give the owner and their team the data they needed to keep their building in optimal condition.

Project Origin

This project began after approval was provided to demolish a neighboring city-owned parking garage. It cleared the way for a large national real-estate developer to construct a new mixed-use tower of similar size to 101 Federal. From the initial design proposal, the proposed new facade was to be located approximately 10’-0” from the face of the existing building at 101 Federal Street.

For situations like this, it's crucial to have accurate documentation of your building. We were hired by the building owners, as their insurance company required them to create a 3D laser scan of their existing building. The rationale was that since there was to be a major new construction project mere feet away from the face of their building, they needed to actively manage their risk. Existing Conditions gave the team the maximum amount of situational awareness for their multi-million dollar asset. When a new construction project comes close to your building, you simply must have the right data and measurements to avoid harm. And in the event of any accidental damage or impact, you have an accurate set of data from an exact moment in time to use as a reliable point of reference.

101 Federal Exterior Scan


Our Tools

Due to the accuracy and range needed for a building approximately 381’-0” high, it was crucial to deploy the most advanced 3D scanners available at the time. We used a combination of Leica RTC-360 and P-50 terrestrial laser scanners. The color, high-density 3D laser scan data we were able to collect was incredible! By leveraging the most advanced equipment, we were able to provide our clients with the most accurate information possible.

101 Federal Exterior Scan - Color


Our Expertise

The tools and software we use are all commercially available. But our clients understand that in addition to deploying the most advanced laser scanning technology in the industry, we are providing them with decades of experience and expertise. All of our key staff have worked for architects or others in the building industry. Because of this, we understand the language of buildings and ultimately what is important to be delivered to the end-user. We 3D laser scan and draw approximately 60,000,000 square feet of all types of buildings per year. For over twenty years, as a result, the best architects, building owners, and real estate professionals work with us.


Our 3D Laser Scanning Process

Over the decades, the process of gathering, processing, modeling, and distributing our work has been developed and brought to a degree of precision. This process helps us assure that the 3D laser scan and drawings that we produce are of optimal quality and accuracy. 3D laser scanning is a straightforward but effective method to get the job done right.

To begin, we turn on the machine which completes a full revolution and sends out a signal that bounces off any object in the line of sight. The cloud of points that you see on the floor plan is the result of this process. It provides a wealth of rich data information and precise measurements of anything that was captured within the line of sight. The rich color of the data that we were able to capture is also useful throughout the lifespan of this project. Each scan is a simple, quick, and safe process which can be done in a matter of seconds.

Using the Leica RTC 360, we began with short-range laser scans of the building's exterior and basement sections after establishing survey control. This tool is fantastic for collecting high-quality scan data at the ranges that we need. Therefore, this instrument was the best option.

We also used the Leica P-50 long-range 3D laser scanner after gathering the short-range scan data and linked the full data set to survey control. The P-50 has a range of up to a kilometer, so it can scan and collect data from a tall building. We utilized this tool to gather data from locations similar to the RTC and to collect data from the roof of 101 Federal, as well as the rooftops of other nearby buildings. After tying this data into existing survey control, we were able to compile a complete, accurate data set of 101 Federal Street before construction starting on the neighboring building.

101 Federal Exterior Scan - Retail


Why 3D Laser Scanning?

Instead of traditional photography or using a tape measure, laser scanning is critical for these types of projects. With photographs or hand measurement, you can only detect minor variances, not every detail. You would not be able to notice if your structure was beginning to lean, for example. As they say, the devil is in the details. 3D laser scanning ensures that you do not miss any detail.

Other insurance companies would be wise to take note of this precedent, simply because it is now commonplace in the industry. We now have the technology to comprehend these structures in ways we never had before. Because it is a reality capture, our delivery is a true portrayal of the building. When we do that for a client, they can rest assured that their building was comprehensively documented at the time of the survey. They will be able to refer to those documents if something happens in the future. As a result, we may not have to return to the building and rescan it in the future.


Additional Uses of Scan Data

Having our work as a document, not only for 101 Federal Street, but also for the nearby buildings, was one of the additional uses of the scan data. We can collect data in a comprehensive manner since the 3D laser scanner takes data in 360 degrees x 305 degrees. This will provide the same level of situational awareness to the surrounding location. It assisted the building owner of 101 Federal in reducing the likelihood of damage claims against their building.


Why Choose to Do a Pre-Construction Survey?

Pre-construction surveys used to be done with video cameras, but now that we have visual and dimensional data of the entire building, we can create more useful information. For instance, we can scan the property again later to determine if the vertical wall is tilting or if there are any fractures emerging in the foundation of the interior. If you are concerned about the existing conditions of your building, we recommend that you have a pre-construction survey done on your building to have accurate data.

Why did 101 Federal Street need a pre-construction survey? We needed to document the entire building before any work being done at the new skyscraper. We scanned the entire perimeter of the building, including all exterior elevations and the roof. We also scanned the parking garage beneath 101 Federal Street to ensure that nothing was harmed by the neighboring building's digging or foundation setting. All of this information is documented, so after the adjacent building is finished, we will rescan and compare the scan data. This will ensure that 101 Federal Street is unaffected by the new construction. We made certain that all of the 3D point cloud data was linked to the survey control system.


The Deliverable

The 3D laser scan data linked to survey control was the primary deliverable. This allowed our client to understand the building in both a 3D and 4D manner. We not only completed the project on time and budget, but we also spent time with our clients evaluating our results and training them on how to examine the point cloud, extract dimensions, and distribute the data with the appropriate parties. We were also asked to develop 3D Revit exterior elevations in addition to the 3D laser scan data. This was so that the building's owners could use the information for a possible soundproofing exercise.


Follow on Collaboration

By utilizing our technology and skill, we gave the owner and insurance company situational awareness of their assets that they never had formerly, and allowed them to make informed decisions on what to do in the future should any risk arise.

We always view our engagement with clients as a collaboration in which they may benefit from our knowledge and technology throughout the project lifecycle. We inform our clients that we are accessible to answer any questions they may have or provide any further information they require to complete this job successfully.

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