A big trend as of late in the construction industry is the use of laser scanning in the BIM (building information modeling) process. It is one thing to design multifaceted structures in the office; it is a whole different story to go out in the field and build them. Laser scanning allows construction teams to measure quickly and accurately based on the model.

While commercial building contractors are beginning to look at the technology as a tool to help build in the field what was created in the office, construction companies targeting the infrastructure segment of the business have likely already used or considered laser scanning for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure construction projects.

One example comes from CalTrans (California Dept. of Transportation), www.dot.ca.gov, Los Angeles, Calif., which is the state agency responsible for highway, bridge, and rail transportation planning, construction, and maintenance in California.

While laser scanning is still relatively new at CalTrans, the organization is already seeing widespread adoption by internal customers for digital-terrain models. Two high-profile projects using the technology include the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge seismic safety reconstruction and the Presidio Parkway.

How does laser scanning work? At its core, a 3D scanner can collect critical data points at a jobsite, identifying the distance of a surface. On the Bay Bridge project, laser scanners are used as the bridge’s SAS (self-anchored suspension span) is loaded with weight to ensure tolerances aren’t being exceeded. On the Presidio Parkway project, laser scanning is used to preserve historic structures and complete design surveys for safety in high-traffic areas.

Laser scanning is certainly a trend to keep an eye on in the construction industry. The technology can serve a wide range of contractors—not just in the infrastructure segment—and can be used to increase accuracy of building structures in the field.