A Laser Focus Provides a New Perspective on Athletic Facilities
Laser-scanning is a tool that can add substantial value to architects and owners during renovation and design of existing athletic facilities.
While laser-scanning is not new, design teams are increasingly using new applications of this technology to generate precise data with the power to inform decision making through the design process. The result for both design teams and clients is a greater degree of certainty in decision making. This provides an enhanced ability to complete college athletic facility renovations on schedule and within budget.
Laser scanning helps to eliminate guesswork with its millions of geo-spatial data points forming a data cloud. These dense, three-dimensional clouds are the visual elements of the facility, providing owners, managers, and contracted professionals amazingly precise locations and dimensions. It is an especially useful tool for areas that are difficult to access by conventional means, which for athletic facilities might be in complicated roof structures, under seating bowls, or on tall feature elements.
When facility renovations or additions are being considered, having a laser scan available at the start of the process provides for certainty in the planning and budgeting process. And most critically, it has the proven potential to avoid the schedule or budget hiccups that might otherwise result from a lack of accurate information.
University athletic facilities can offer several unique challenges. First, they are often historic in nature, so understanding and maintaining that integrity is important. Second, they are typically not simple box designs. Arenas, stadiums, and ballparks frequently offer unusual angles and features which are hard to quantify via traditional methods. And, lastly, many are aged and thus have sagged and settled over time, to which the accuracy of laser scanning provides certainty in determining mitigation approaches.
Adding to those potential hurdles is the fact that existing architectural plans might be limited or not truly representative of the structure in its current state.
What we have found, especially in the older buildings, is we might be missing the original drawings or any updates that may have been made. We have seen columns that are out of plumb, fixtures in different locations than what the plans say, and even features that are nowhere in the original or subsequent plans. Without laser scanning, we are forced to rely upon an often contradictory collage of surveys and as-built drawings. Working to decipher the contradictions and missing data in as-builts is both time consuming and simply not as accurate.
A case in point is a project at the University of Virginia where improvements are being made to the existing baseball stadium. One task is to extend the existing canopy that covers a portion of the seating. The height and size of that structure would make precise manual measurements very challenging and subject to error. But by using laser scanning technology, measurements to an accuracy within the width of a nickel can be made even at a significant distance.
I am an advocate of laser scanning even when there are no immediate plans for upgrades. The raw information from a laser scan has great value to inform and prioritize decisions about immediate or deferred maintenance needs. For owners, the data generated by a facility laser scan has an extended shelf life capable of supporting informed decision-making though the lifecycle of the building. This information can be invaluable for facility managers in ensuring smooth day-to-day operations, and effective upkeep and maintenance of athletic venues.
The bottom line is that laser scanning injects certainty into the process. That is not only reassuring to us as designers, but also for the owner of the facility, who can be confident that there will be fewer surprises which might result in higher costs. And who doesn’t want to save money when doing a renovation project?