During these last two years or so of a failing worldwide economy, the construction industry has been hit especially hard. And now with concerns about a slowdown in the recovery we’re facing another disappearing rug beneath us just as some companies were beginning to see a little momentum. With many construction companies being forced to close their doors altogether, the lucky ones who have made it through have been forced to stay in business by cutting overhead to bare bones and drastically shrinking profit margins, if there’s any profit at all to be had on a winning bid.
But there are some measures that contractors and architects can take to ensure their project stays on budget and on schedule. One of the most common situations in construction that costs extra money and time are mistakes – measurements are miscalculated, directions are miss communicated, materials are defective, human errors are made. Covering up and working around mistakes is feasible…until it’s time for the exterior. Especially with the more modern materials of the last few decades imperfections have become much more visible. The clean lines and sleek appearance of exterior building products such as metal composite, phenolic panels, concrete composite and the like don’t leave room for much error. So any unexpected bumps, curves or uneven structures that show up while installing the exterior could suddenly put a cog in the machine causing remakes, delayed jobs and even battles over whose fault it is and who should have to eat the costs.
Fortunately, a new trend in exterior construction is the use of high definition surveying laser scanners for the field measuring and engineering process. The scanners are extremely expensive and take several years to learn on a truly efficient level so there aren’t many players in the market yet…but it has great potential. Using millions of laser points with accuracy down to 4mm, the scanners give an intricate 3D map of the structure including all of its mistakes. The data is then downloaded to software that allows the images to be completely manipulated in a 3D setting. This process allows the engineers to see any structural problems or allowances that need to be made before the exterior is even fabricated, saving in both material costs and fabrication/installation time. Nashville-based John W. McDougall Company (which fabricated the exterior of Disney World’s Spaceship Earth in EPCOT) is leading the way having used the technology for several years now.
In a climate where competition is only getting fiercer and profit on jobs is tightening up, accuracy is becoming increasingly important. Technology like high definition scanning in new fields of construction could become a game changer in the not too distant future.