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Case Study: Williams College

Sep 1, 2021 12:30:00 PM

How is this historic institution on the cutting edge of the building industry? They recognize the value of the technology we employ and the services we provide.


It All Started With One Building

I'm excited to share more about one of our favorite projects in the history of Existing Conditions. This was a collaboration with Williams College, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the United States. It all began with a measurement of a single building, Griffin Hall, which we utilized as a proof of concept to show that the information we could supply was what they needed.

We gave that detailed information to their facilities department, which recognized the value of the technology we utilized. They observed the accuracy of our drawings and how they would fit into their master planning efforts. The entire set of drawings were easily accessible on a server, which simplified their job, saving them time and money. These databases could be exported from Revit and imported into any existing database management system.

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Due to the pandemic, we intended to start the scanning process earlier in 2020. This project was unique in that we had to develop a strategic plan for scanning the entire campus during the Covid-19 pandemic. We worked in close collaboration with the teams at Williams to make sure we did this safely, quickly, and in an organized fashion.

The Strategic Plan

During the summer and fall semesters, all students were required to leave campus, and the facilities had to be virtually empty. From May through December 2020, our Operations Manager, Holly Vaillancourt, made sure we had multiple personnel scanning the site at all times. She coordinated all of their travel arrangements and efforts with Kennan Chenail from Williams College's Office of Planning, Design, and Construction. We concentrated on processing the scan data and modeling the buildings in the fall and winter of 2020, and in the spring of 2021 we returned to campus to scan the remaining undocumented areas of the campus.

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We always ensure that our presence will not cause any disruption to the operations that take place within such premises. As a result, careful coordination is required at all times to ensure that the tenants are not disturbed.

Measuring the Entire Campus

We were contracted to measure the entire campus of over four million square feet utilizing the latest 3D scanning technology. Because the pandemic coincided with this endeavor, Williams' buildings were largely unoccupied. Williams insisted that we began with dorm buildings so that they were complete before the students returned to school. Because Williams wanted to benefit from full color scan data, which takes a bit longer than greyscale scanning, the entire laser measuring procedure took approximately six months. By capturing the data in color, Williams would be able to create virtual walkthroughs while still benefiting from architectural drawings of each building. We worked closely with Keenan and the team at Williams to determine our priorities for delivery.

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Fun Facts About Our Site Work

We had to pick up the keys before 8:00 a.m. and drop them off when we finished for the day when we were on site. After we got the keys, we had to figure out which parts of campus needed to be scanned. We did a rapid walk-through of the building while on-site to assess and prepare a quick scan path. This method would be performed several times for many days.

Drone Media

Drone imagery is increasingly requested of us as our clients gain a greater understanding of its value. Several drone images of the campus were captured during our site work at Williams College. Sometimes we only use the drone to capture imagery of roof structures that we cannot see with our usual scanning approach from the ground. This gives our clients and our modeling team a greater understanding of the site conditions on the roof. In other situations, a drone survey of a large campus like Williams College can help provide an overall map of building positions and relative distances. Lastly, there is a use to get higher detail images and information on the upper cornices of buildings that could not be accessed otherwise.

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Situational Awareness

Williams College can use our plans for renovations, continuous facility management, and accessibility studies of all their buildings.Their faculty and staff now has total situational awareness across the whole campus. They will be able to use these drawings for future renovation work and day-to-day operations. This project is expected to be complete by the end of August 2021. The project's careful planning, organization, and execution continues to be a collaborative endeavor.

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How This Project Was Unique

Williams College has been a wonderful project to work on. Not only from a business perspective in that we’re mapping the entire campus in color, requiring significant coordination and time investment, but personally as well, for many members of the team at Existing Conditions. Not only do they have these 3D Revit models that they can use for their facilities management, but they also have the 3D laser scan data so they can have that up on their cloud storage system. They will be able to virtually walk any of their buildings with a tablet on campus. Therefore, they are receiving a lot more benefit from us for the same value than they would have elsewhere.

The architects will be able to form their studies in an expedited manner because of the documentation that we are providing. They will not have to spend months on-site than they would have otherwise had to. As a result, they are receiving more value from us than they would have gotten otherwise. We are, in effect, a force multiplier.

Working With Williams College

Williams College's staff was fantastic to collaborate with since they recognized the importance of our efforts and what we were offering for them. They came up with a variety of uses for our work that went beyond what we had initially planned when we began the endeavor. For a project of this size, it demonstrates that their organization and personnel are top-notch. Williams has been around for 225 years, and it has produced many brilliant minds, innovation, wealth, and knowledgeable people. We're extraordinarily proud to know that our drawings will be put to use for decades to come, helping to foster future generations of success at Williams.

Why Work With Us?

One of the reasons our clients appreciate working with us is because we are easily accessible. Our on-site contacts, clients, architects, and other professionals know that they can reach out to us at any time. Working in real-time at any given moment is always a plus in our process. We are always able to reply immediately to our client's requirements and maintain open lines of communication with them.

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Jared Curtis

Written by Jared Curtis

President, Existing Conditions