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The Value of Experience: How Existing Conditions Handles On-Site Risks During Facade Surveys

The Value of Experience: How Existing Conditions Handles On-Site Risks During Facade Surveys

Existing Conditions has over 25 years of experience surveying buildings, and as a result, we have experience overcoming nearly all of the risks and challenges associated with facade surveys. Here are some of the risks and challenges that we have faced, and how we have dealt with them.

To take a deeper dive and earn continuing education credit, take a look at our webinar on facade surveying.

 

Safety On-site:

From old abandoned buildings to overgrown vegetation, the safety profile of some buildings is often not up to standards. Deteriorating infrastructure is a primary concern when approaching a new project. The inspection team must carefully scout the premises and facade of some properties before entering; falling debris is not only common but seriously dangerous. Once the team has entered a high-risk zone, more risks often present themselves. From tripping hazards like fallen electrical wires to poisonous chemical toxins, there is no shortage of threats on-site. The inspection team must come prepared with their “A-game” and proper gear to keep themselves safe during these missions.

On-site images, Fort Hancock abandoned building in Sandy Hook, New Jersey

 

Our Experience:

Existing Conditions is prepared to handle many types of roadblocks in our surveying operations, ranging from risks on the ground to threats high in the sky. In 2022, Existing Conditions was hired to perform facade surveys of the “Superman” Building located at 111 Westminster Street  in Providence, Rhode Island. The “Superman” Building was built in 1928 and is famous for its elegant, multi-leveled architecture. Before arriving on-site, they learned that there was a nest of peregrine falcons at the top of this building. The Audubon Society of Rhode Island writes, “Perched high above the streets of Providence, these fascinating birds lay their eggs and raise their young each spring on the ledges of the Industrial National Bank Building - also lovingly known as the "Superman Building" to Rhode Islanders.” When Existing Conditions arrived at the scene, they knew that this wouldn’t be an easy job. The falcons took laps around the building, posing a threat to the drone. Conversely, the drone was also a danger to them. Joe Sullivan, Senior Project Manager at Existing Conditions, recalled the unique day at work: “we actually had to time our drone survey of this building around the nesting and migratory schedule of these birds, which were being monitored by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.” The team observed these falcons from inside the building, as shown in the video below. They successfully navigated their drone flights and avoided any sort of interaction with the animals. After a patient and meticulous day on the job, the Existing Conditions team walked away with the scan data they needed.

Footage from the site of two falcons perched on the building’s facade.

We also demonstrated our ability to deal with serious risks when surveying a vacant, deteriorating New England mill building, featured in our Risk Management for Reality Capture Webinar. For this project, Existing Conditions dealt with facades that were largely covered with overgrown vegetation, ranging from vines, small trees, and other weeds. Laser scanners and drones can only capture data within their line of sight, so the obstructions were preventing the team from accurately capturing the intricate details of the facade. Additionally, the surveying team was unsure whether sections of the building were safe to approach since cracks and loose pieces of the facade may not have been visible to the human eye or drone camera. As a result, Existing Conditions ensured that the vegetation was properly removed on time so that this historical New England building could be safely and accurately surveyed.

Drone images of the vacant New England Mill building

Additionally, this building featured many dangerous fall risks and pitch-black rooms with mold and other toxic chemicals. Many of our crew members are OSHA 30 certified, so we are highly aware of where we can and cannot step inside a building that is falling apart. To deal with the conditions present in this building, the team employed a buddy system, used headlamps and flashlights, and wore respirators and Tyvek suits to avoid any environmental contaminants. They avoided certain parts of the building which were not structurally stable, and if possible, they captured those areas from adjacent rooms. They successfully avoided fall risks and other hazards and thoroughly scanned the building. This documentation gives the owner and their teams reliable and current situational awareness of the existing conditions of their building. 

On-site Images of Tufts University students at 270 Bay State Road wearing protective gear and Tyvek suits as well as hazards in the building

By taking the required precautions and approaching the process in a systematic, thoughtful way, we produced these high-quality deliverables for our client. After our site visit, we processed and cleaned the data we captured. This process involves omitting any obstructions or anomalies in the images, such as trees, vines, or surrounding obstacles. Then, we input our data into the corresponding software program (e.g., DroneDeploy for drone images) to produce 3D drawings, as shown below. Once we have created our initial drawings, there is further processing and reviewing must be done. Interestingly, it is very difficult to build a perfect right angle in real-life. As a result, the drawings that our software generates from our reality capture are often not perfectly orthogonal, which makes them appear less neat. To provide the most professional, practical deliverable for our client, we amend our drawings to ensure they have exact right angles, without compromising their accuracy and precision.

Processing point cloud data of the vacant New England Mill Building

Building Information Models (BIM) of the vacant New England Mill Building

 

The Value of Experience:

Existing Conditions has been in the architectural surveying industry for 25 years, and our team is filled with seasoned professionals. When it comes to the dangers and risks of surveying buildings, they have seen it all: extreme weather conditions, unsafe areas in and around the building, unpredictable wildlife, and more. These experiences have prepared us for any challenge or obstacle. Regardless of the condition of your building, we will provide you with the most complete set of resources of any building surveying company, including decades of expertise and experience. If you need a drone survey of your building, or simply want a reliable set of as-built drawings, get started with Existing Conditions today.

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