Ensuring the perfect fit of steel beams in commercial and residential buildings requires more than line drawings and spot measurements. On complex structures with contemporary designs, creating a seamless flow of accurate data in a 3D digital environment is often the only way to get the job done right the first time around.
Wallace O’Connell & Associates structural design team discovered an innovative way to achieve this goal when they were tasked with providing quality assurance on the steel structure of a four-story beachfront residence on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. The structure’s modern architecture required the installation of two columns on an angle, and it was impossible to measure the tops of the columns with traditional tools to make sure the beams would fit.
The structural design team consulted with Leica Geosystems’ building information modeling (BIM) solutions experts, who recommended a combination of hardware and software that would make it easy to capture accurate data in the field and compare it with the design model to identify any inconsistencies.
Using Autodesk Point Layout, the team first added their control points in AutoCAD and then exported the points and plan underlay to MicroSurvey Layout software. Onsite, the team used the control points from AutoCAD to orient their Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation, a robotic total station with laser scanning capabilities. They then used the MultiStation to capture a number of 3D as-built discrete points as well as 10 point clouds of the columns, base plates and attached beams, which they pulled into MicroSurvey Layout software. The team “round-tripped” the data seamlessly back into AutoCAD using Leica MultiWorx software. Importantly, no registration or post-processing of the data was required, and the point cloud was pre-oriented to fit the model.
The streamlined workflow gave the structural engineers more time for analysis and problem solving—a welcome benefit, since the comparison between the model and as-built conditions revealed deviations at the tops of the columns and at the base plates. With the accurate digital information, the team was able to correct the problems in the virtual environment before they affected construction.
“Leica Geosystems’ 3D as-builting solutions are amazing,” said Jesse Wallace, president of Wallace O’Connell & Associates. “The valuable insight provided with this process saved time and rework on the project and helped our team achieve a perfect fit of the steel beams on the first try.”