The Business Of Laser Scanning: General Contractors...Exposed?

by Ken Smerz, as seen on, published Sunday, March 15th 2015

There's a significant growing end user group in the laser scanning community --general contractors. More clearly, self-performing general contractors. This is the a unique group within the GC world that performs some scope of the project themselves, and this case has made the investment in a laser scanner to use internally to support their workflows.

The decision to purchase versus hiring an outside firm is mostly driven because these companies, aside from having the cash to invest, see the `3d world' as the future in their industry. They've recognized the need to adapt or face slow death. [I agree 100%.] So they purchase the scanner, then typically promote one of their young guns who grew up in the computer age--particularly 3d--and create a Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) unit within their company. The VDC group then lives in the world of Building Information Modeling (BIM) on their projects.

Other general contractors made the investment because they are unwillingly being dragged into the 3d world by the owners. Ironically, most owners aren't educated enough to legitimately utilize all that BIM has to offer in a handover package. And I'm not aware of any owner that has figured out that they can hold everyone accountable for their project quality and deliverable by using laser scanning against the BIM. I digress.

And yet other GC's purchased a laser scanner and basically use it as a marketing tool by creating sexy fly-through videos, or 3d models, in order to land the next job. They can woo the owner/architect and provide justification as to why they should award them the contract.

Regardless of why they've purchased a scanner, the common component is that all of these GC's are being sucked into the BIM world. And if BIM is being maximized, it falls under the umbrella of Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD. The caveman definition of IPD is "Everyone working together in a collaborative environment to support each other, collectively achieve project milestones, and openly share information." Basically the same thing you were told in kindergarten, "play nice" In construction that means the A/E's, contractors, and owners are expected to all get along. (That's funny.)

So here's the question: "If the GC is controlling the project and also in charge of generation of scan data to create a 3d model, are they liable if the data they provide is inaccurate and causes my company a significant loss on the project?"

I can't answer that question, and will leave that to our well-oiled judicial system. Nonetheless, GC's (and other providers) need to have a strategy in place to reduce their exposure. The liability faced by the GC's doing their own scanning is substantially reduced if they are well trained.

The benefits of training and continuous training include:

What should you look for in a training partner? Whether it's a manufacturer or a service provider, the laser scanning end user should make certain that their training partner meets the following criteria:

Our industry is still very small and there are a boatload of new adopters. The better we collectively work to educate each other, the faster we can all scale and prosper.

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