In launching our inaugural Existing Conditions Innovation Challenge in February 2023, we set out to empower the next generation of architects.
This case study provides a detailed look at how Existing Conditions partnered with Northeastern University and LeMessurier to capture accurate building documentation for a series of campus buildings. We'll cover the challenges, solutions, and results of this exciting project.
From Mugar Life Sciences to Four Additional Buildings: How Accurate Building Documentation Helps Academic Institutions Stay Ahead
Existing Conditions has been selected to partner with some of the most high-profile and prestigious academic institutions in the country. For over 25 years, Existing Conditions has provided institutions with high-quality, accurate documentation to make intelligent decisions, mitigate risk, and avoid costly mistakes. Our partnership with Northeastern University and LeMessurier is no exception. The first phase began in 2021 when we conducted an exterior scan of the Mugar Life Sciences building. When our clients saw the value of accurate building documentation, we returned for a second phase in 2022 to provide the same deliverables for four additional buildings. In this blog, you will learn how your academic institution can stay ahead of the curve in the building industry. By leveraging our state-of-the-art technology, decades of experience, and expertise, you can ensure that your institution is at the forefront of building design and construction.
Our case study video provides a detailed look into our collaboration with LeMessurier and Northeastern University, showcasing how we utilized 3D laser scanning and drone imagery to document accurate building documentation and help inform LeMessurier's analysis and design process.
Watch the video to learn more about our process and see the results of our work. If you have any questions or would like to begin a project, click here to get started with us today!
History of Northeastern University
Northeastern University was founded in 1898 as the Evening Institute for Younger Men by the YMCA of Boston. Its original mission was to provide education to working-class men in the Boston area. The institute initially offered courses in law, business, and accounting. Over time, the school began to expand its academic offerings and student body, becoming Northeastern University in 1922. Northeastern's commitment to providing education to working-class individuals persisted throughout its history, and it has become a well-regarded institution known for its experiential learning opportunities and commitment to social justice.
In the 1960s, Northeastern University began to focus more on co-op education, which allows students to alternate periods of classroom study with periods of paid, professional work experience. This approach has become a hallmark of Northeastern's educational philosophy and is still a major part of the university's curriculum. Co-op programs have been established in a wide range of industries, including technology, healthcare, and finance. In recent years, Northeastern has continued to expand its academic offerings and research initiatives, becoming a top-tier research university with a global reputation for excellence.
Partnering with LeMessurier and Northeastern University
The team at LeMessurier had a positive experience working with Existing Conditions during a concurrent scan of interiors for a Harvard project. As a result, Existing Conditions was selected for the Northeastern University projects, which has since led to further collaborations.
In November 2021, LeMessurier and Northeastern University partnered with Existing Conditions in which we conducted a building enclosure survey, documenting the exterior, and obtained drone imagery of the Mugar Life Sciences building. The building, which was constructed over three different periods, presented a challenge due to its intricate rooftop filled with HVAC units, ductwork, piping, and complicated roof slopes. Existing Conditions utilized 3D laser scanning to map and capture all the details. This proved invaluable to LeMessurier, who needed to coordinate the duct work lying on the roof plane. Additionally, they needed to potentially move rooftop units upward to provide a new roof assembly. The team also helped identify abandoned equipment and piping that could be removed to aid the project's progress. The 3D Revit model allowed for a better understanding of the relationships in space, which was critical in this highly intricate project.
Exterior elevation of the Mugar Life Sciences building
Visual drone media of the campus
Our Deliverables Timeline
The scope for the exterior scans included exterior walls, material changes, windows, doors, curtain walls, seals, water tables, loading docks, parapets, canopies, skylights, exterior stairs, and points of access to the roof. The roof plan scans covered skylights, hatches, access points, vent pipes, roof drains, decks, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEPs). The Existing Conditions team completed the scanning and modeling of the four buildings in a total of five days. One team member scanned the Cabot Physical Center and Stearns Center exteriors and roofs on July 27 and 28, respectively, while the other team member scanned the Stetson Hall East and West exteriors and roofs in early-August. It then took five days to process the data and 15 days to produce the deliverables. The team delivered the first models in early August and received the completed models of all four buildings in a total of 21 days from start to finish.
Laser scan data of the Stearns Center
Before the advent of newer technologies, such as laser scanning and BIM (Building Information Modeling), LeMessurier's design process was a more laborious and time-consuming affair. They had to rely on scanned PDFs of existing buildings, which were often incomplete or inaccurate, to map and draw the structures. This led to a great deal of guesswork and uncertainty in the design process, which in turn slowed down their work. However, with the introduction of newer technologies like laser scanning and BIM modeling, LeMessurier's design process has become significantly faster and more efficient.
During the project, Existing Conditions utilized the Leica RTC360 for scanning, which allowed us to capture the exterior in color. To fulfill LeMessurier's request for exterior scans of the Cabot Physical Education Center, Stearns Center, Stetson Hall East, and Stetson Hall West, the Existing Conditions team faced a daunting challenge. They had just five days to complete scans for the buildings' exterior elevations and roof plans. The task was assigned to a team of two members, who had to work quickly to meet the tight schedule. With our training and decades of experience, the Existing Conditions team is well-equipped to handle tight deadlines.
Our state-of-the-art Leica RTC360 scanner, scanning the Cabot Physical Education Center
Additionally, Existing Conditions used the DIJI Mavic Air 2 drone to capture imagery of the four buildings on the college campus. However, flying the drone proved to be challenging due to the city environment and high pedestrian traffic. We had to constantly monitor our flights to ensure we were not flying over people, especially during peak times like lunch breaks.
Despite these challenges, we were able to complete the drone imagery portion of the project. The campus had many trees, which posed issues for exterior capture, but our focus was primarily on the building's exterior envelope. To solve this challenge, Existing Conditions finished drone surveying the rest of the building once everyone had evacuated or finished their lunches. This allowed our team to fly the drone without anyone underneath us. It did take some time, but Existing Conditions was able to complete the task safely and effectively. This was not our first time working with LeMessurier, as we had previously provided drone imagery for five or six of their other projects. In terms of delivery, we used Scopito to deliver the final product to the client. Overall, the project presented many unique challenges, but we were able to successfully navigate them and provide the client with high-quality imagery.
Visual drone media of the campus
Existing Conditions’ experience, expertise, and state-of-the-art technology has proven to save time, money, and resources. Here’s how: through this partnership, LeMessurier was able to save time and resources by avoiding the need to search through archives for building prints. With the accurate and detailed BIM models provided by Existing Conditions, LeMessurier was able to quickly and efficiently move forward with their design process.
Take the Cabot Physical Education Center for example. It is a complex building with various materials and additions, and LeMessurier struggled to follow the existing documentation of its construction history. By leveraging Existing Conditions' 3D Revit model and drone footage coupled with Google Earth, LeMessurier was able to map out the building's history, which informed their analysis of materials, joints, and seams. The 3D Revit model also helped to quickly record the existing elements of Stearns Hall East and West, which were built at different times but are essentially mirror images of each other, enabling them to begin designing quickly.
Exterior elevation of the Cabot Physical Education Center
Despite the buildings' apparent architectural similarities, they were constructed during different periods, each with its unique assembly systems. Existing Conditions' state-of-the-art technology allows LeMessurier to identify these differences and gain a comprehensive understanding of the constraints and opportunities each presents. This detailed information is invaluable to LeMessurier, as it informs important decisions such as window and door placements, site layout, and phasing. With our laser scanning technology, Existing Conditions can detect even the most subtle variables that may have been overlooked during the site visit. This comprehensive data is instrumental in developing the design and ensuring its success.
Laser scan data with building information model overlay of the Stearns Center
Overall, the collaboration between LeMessurier and Existing Conditions demonstrates the significant impact that technological advancements can have on the design process, and how partnering with experts like us can help streamline and accelerate projects.
How This Project Was Unique
Existing Conditions was involved in an exterior-only survey for this project, which presented a unique set of challenges. Despite this, we were able to successfully collect data using various methods such as the Leica RTC360, which produced highly accurate scan data. Our team had to access roofs to capture areas not visible from the ground, such as the Cabot Physical Education Center, with various roof heights and types, as well as work around equipment like HVAC and MEP equipment.
Visual drone media of the Cabot Physical Education Center
Through this process, Existing Conditions was able to deliver accurate drawings that enabled LeMessurier to extract critical information about the building's conditions. This project marks the beginning of an archival process for the university, which is becoming increasingly popular in other universities as well. Despite the simplicity of the buildings' geometry, having this model mapped in terms of latitude, longitude, elevation, and space is highly significant. With this data, the university can create a campus-wide 3D model that will be invaluable for future construction, offsets, square footage, and other relevant information.
Where Does This Project Stand Now?
LeMessurier has been working with Northeastern University for many years, primarily in the area of structural engineering. Recently, their enclosure group has been tasked with surveying the university's older buildings, which feature white-glazed brick and are an essential part of the Northeastern aesthetic. As with any building, renovations, and maintenance are necessary to preserve the campus's appearance. LeMessurier is now surveying these buildings and providing design recommendations to the university in a hierarchical manner.
LeMessurier is also in an intermediary phase where they have the existing information. As universities typically move slowly, the unveiling of this information is occurring in phases. However, having a head start with these four buildings and the streamlined workflow that they are implementing will put them in an excellent position once other buildings come into play.
About the Client LeMessurier
LeMessurier is a well-established, Boston-based engineering firm that has been providing cutting-edge solutions to clients for over 50 years. They are known for their innovative designs and attention to detail, which has helped them establish a reputation as one of the top engineering firms in the country.
Gregory Norton, Associate, LeMessurier
“With your team and 3D laser scanning, it has really accelerated our process of design because we can get you to team with us to map the buildings and provide a Building Information Model for us, which we can then use very quickly. It helps accelerate our internal process and also doesn't make us depend on looking through their archives for building prints” - Gregory Norton, Associate of LeMessurier.
A Continued Partnership
Existing Conditions' services have been requested for various projects, including churches in Maine and Portland's tallest 12-story building, where both drone and laser scanning were utilized. LeMessurier’s team was impressed with Existing Conditions' services, especially our ability to provide a quick turnaround time to deliver up-to-date drawings and overlay site observations onto their models.
When asked if they considered any other data methods besides Existing Conditions, the team mentioned that they still tend to draw some of the ornamentations of historical buildings, as it can be challenging to Revit model. However, they can evaluate and see these details using laser scans. Sometimes they still have to draw 2D information on top of the 3D component, but the new technology and Existing Conditions' expertise allow them to marry these two ways of working effectively. The team also emphasized that, despite the benefits of technology, there is still value in double-checking things on-site by physically “poking a hole in the wall” and doing some digging. The combination of the 3D laser scanning technology and LeMessurier's physical presence on-site allows for seamless integration of the traditional and modern methods of working. It marries the two ways of working well, enabling them to get a comprehensive understanding of the building's condition and requirements for its renovation or restoration.
Overall, the continued partnership between LeMessurier and Existing Conditions demonstrates the value of integrating cutting-edge technology with traditional architecture and design practices. As the industry continues to evolve, it is essential to embrace new tools and methods to create resilient, sustainable, and beautiful buildings for future generations.
Existing Conditions is a highly experienced team that has extensive training and experience in providing accurate building documentation for academic institutions throughout the United States. Our goal is to serve as an extension of our clients' team, offering our expertise regardless of location. With over 25 years of partnerships with academic institutions, we are a nationally recognized leader in our field. For comprehensive situational awareness of your building, rely on us to be your eyes in the field. Schedule a consultation today by clicking here.
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