In the past, the conventional, manual surveying of industrial sites for retrofits or facility expansion often required hundreds of hours, sometimes over months, and sometimes involved potentially hazardous locations. When as-built infrastructures were hidden or not precisely detailed in original plans, the resulting survey errors usually led to expensive re-work or change orders for retrofit or expansion projects.
Today, high-definition survey technology (HDS) makes it possible for data to be collected from hundreds survey points, with densities and accuracies of 1/8 inch, in a matter or hours instead of days or weeks. HDS technology is based on an imaging laser that collects up to 50,000 survey shots per second, making it far easier to provide data that can be used for 2D line work or 3D models. An HDS system also features an external camera that collects photographic images in a 360-degree, RGB color values. These image files are later fused to the data points that are assembled as “point clouds,” which can then be utilized for site mapping, project planning, and civil, structural and MEP design as data is extracted into formats such as AutoCAD, Revit, and MicroStation. Provided by professional specialists, HDS can be used to survey a plethora of industrial projects such as processing plants, refineries, and mining operations and other facilities that plan to make modifications, retrofit, expand, or upgrade key equipment.
Efficiencies that lead to savings
Stan Postma is vice president of Utah-based engineering services firm, MWH Americas Inc. (a subsidiary of MWH Global). His organization has recently undertaken the renovation of a hydroelectric power plant that is operated by the City of Logan, in northern Utah.
“We needed to evaluate some existing structures, including a powerhouse that is about 100 years old,” Postma explains. “I knew about HDS type of scanning, and thought it would be a good application for the project. So, we engaged McNeil Engineering’s HDS team to do that for us. This service captured all of the information about the building in a very quick and efficient manner, enabling us to plan around the existing structure with very accurate information.” McNeil Engineering is a multi-faceted firm that performs HDS scanning for the past 5 years, as well as other survey-related services, civil engineering, structural engineering, consulting and landscape architecture.
According to Postma, this data enabled his staff to put the dam in a 3D animation so they could view it from any angle. This was a useful tool because it provided a precise reference, and eliminated the need to send personnel to the site for visual confirmations. “We’re going to end up with savings on change orders and construction efficiencies all around,” Posta concludes. ”Having all the information available in such great detail is going to save money. HDS scanning is very cost-efficient tool.”
Many design and engineering firms turn to HDS technology because the scans it provides are so accurate that it virtually removes the need to work from records that could be somewhat inaccurate, thereby eliminates the need for re-work.
Hubbard Engineering (Mesa, AZ) used McNeil's HDS scanning service for a retrofit project at WestWorld, a large, open-air equestrian center and events arena in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The extreme summertime heat was limiting WestWorld use, so the owners decided to enclose and air-condition the arena,” says Adrian Burcham, P.L.S., Director of Land Survey at Hubbard. “This was a large retrofit project,” says Burcham, “We scanned the interior because there were no plans available. The HDS technology enabled us to precisely pinpoint the as-builts for design purposes, including the new HVAC system.” Burcham says it took just one day to complete the scanning, which he feels could have taken several weeks with a conventional survey team. The 360-degree photos created from points all around the arena were also quite helpful. When used in conjunction with point clouds, the photos made it much easier to reference the project visually.
An added measure of safety
Because all scanning is performed from ground level, HDS scanning technology is unobtrusive, making it unnecessary to interrupt production processes. This convenience also adds a measure of safety, as pointed out by Brian Akers, Piping Lead at Job Industrial Services, Inc. (Salt Lake City). Job Industrial Services handles retrofit and expansion projects with refineries, mining, and power & gas transmission facilities in Utah and throughout the U.S. Naturally, safety is a priority of the firm.
“HDS technology improves on the safety of our personnel because we spend significantly less field time in potentially dangerous environments,” Akers explains. “This is the case particularly in the refinery industry, where you may have thousands of miles of infrastructure. If we’re doing a retrofit, we can have a service provide laser scans, and with the point cloud information we can do a model a lot more accurately than we can do with conventional field measurements.”
Job Industrial Services had the McNeil Engineering team perform HDS scanning at a recent refinery project because the team possessed the necessary state-required training certification and other safety-related qualifications. “They removed the need for our organization to invest in HDS equipment, create a scanning team and then send them out to the job sites,” Akers explains. “All that saves us capital and the loss of considerable production time at the office end.”
For more information on McNeil Engineering visit the web site www.mcneilengineering.com 
In the past, the manual surveying of sites for retrofits or facility expansion often required hundreds of hours, often in potentially hazardous locations. When infrastructures were not precisely detailed in plans, the resulting survey errors usually led to expensive changes. Today, high-definition survey technology makes it possible for data to be collected from hundreds of survey points in a matter or hours instead of days or weeks.