Embracing Technology in the A/E Industry to Work Smarter, not Harder
How BIM, UAVs & 3D Scanners have Changed the A/E Landscape
“Working smarter, not harder.” Now there’s a phrase that we’ve all heard at one point in our life or another. “Work smarter, not harder,” I was told as I learned the purpose of each tool in the woodshop. Sure, you could sand your Pinewood Derby car to the shape you want, but a rasp will take more material faster. And a saw even more so. As we grow, so do the tools that are at our disposal. I sometimes catch myself looking at the myriad of tools strewn about my woodshop and how they each have a specific purpose that makes a particular job remarkably simple. We all laugh at the examples given in infomercials of the people who can figure out how to use a knife to sell you on the idea of buying that specialty slicer that will perfectly cut your hard-boiled egg in just the right way. The truth is, they’ve taken the concept of working smarter to the point where the effort saved isn’t worth the tool’s cost, the frequency used, or the space to store it.
In our world of Architecture and Engineering, we’ve seen waves of technological advancement aimed squarely at making our jobs easier.
The most obvious of these tools was the introduction of computers and computer aided design (CAD), which eventually morphed into building information modeling (BIM). But as computers have become the dominant tool in the office, when it comes to field work, most of us have made do with a tape measure and a note pad – no matter what the project was.
Introducing new technology develops new capabilities. For example, using infrared photography allows us to understand the heat flow through a building’s envelope, find where pockets of moisture exist underneath a roof membrane, identify failed electrical components, and even locate gas leaks just by examining a series of photos.
Remote-controlled aircraft have become somewhat ubiquitous and inexpensive. Visual inspections of building components at almost any height can be performed from the ground without putting people in danger and saving the cost of lifting equipment. Some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) even come equipped with infrared cameras allowing the pilots to perform IR studies from the air.
But what about the good old-fashioned field measurements? Existing conditions before the design of a renovation? As-built conditions during construction?
These have relied on traditional tools such as the tape measure or laser tape and a note pad. Measuring the area of doors and windows or the size of a wide flange metal beam was highly dependent upon the abilities of the person reading the tape. In reality, most corners are not square, most walls are not perfectly plumb, and most floors are not perfectly level. So there is only so much a tape measure can tell you about the space. And what happens when a month later, you realize that you missed one or two measurements when you were at a project located on the other side of the country? You either make another trip and eat the cost, or you bite the bullet and ask the client to provide the measurement for you, right? Neither option is ideal.
Embracing technology provides a higher level of service to our clients.
For NKB to work smarter, we routinely use all of the tools mentioned above, and on top of that, we have invested in a Laser Scanner, which allows us to capture point cloud data for an entire space within minutes.
You want to talk about smarter, not harder? Let’s talk about spending a fraction of the time on-site performing field measurements – the larger the project, the more time we save. Let’s talk about never missing a measurement because the scan includes everything that the scanner can see. Let’s talk about constructing a floor plan from a point cloud without worrying about reading that chicken scratch from the field notes. Let’s talk about analyzing the point cloud to determine precisely how square, or plumb, or level any surface is. Let’s talk about being able to determine how accurately the steel members are erected or how level the slab is poured in that new construction project. Let’s talk about telling just how significant the bowing or leaning of that masonry wall is.
The A/E fields have long embraced the use of technology and new tools to make our work more efficient and more accurate. We have been on the leading edge of this modern technological revolution for the past decade. We now sit poised, through our use of cutting edge technology, to continue to provide our clients with the highest levels of service and reliability.