Scanning Clipper Mill

Large-Volume Scanner Captures Large Interior Space

Projects - Clipper Mill Tractor Building

Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse is a Baltimore-based developer whose self-described aim is to transform America’s cities, one neighborhood at a time. They have facilitated extensive community restoration and urban growth re-development in cities like Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston, and beyond.

One of their typical restoration projects was the historic Clipper Mill facility in downtown Baltimore which was in its day one of the largest machine manufacturing shops and foundries in the country. But of course like so many old urban industrial sites, it lay abandoned and in ruins for decades.

While much of the site and surrounding area has been transformed by Struever over the past 10 years into exciting new commercial and retail spaces, art studios & restaurants, and even residential units, one old building remains undeveloped in its original abandoned state. Known as the Tractor Building, this is the next project slated for redevelopment.

During the restoration planning phase, Struever encountered design challenges that could be solved using cutting-edge 3D laser scanning technologies. In order to take advantage of historic tax credits by maintaining original design elements, complex features such as the large pane windows, structural beams, and complex roof trussing needed to be accurately measured to be incorporated within the new architectural designs. To turn the large open warehouse-like building into the multi-story residential and office space they had envisioned, Struever required a detailed dimensional inspection of the as-built building in order to create the new development plans.

With nearly 15 years of experience with thousands of complex 3D measurement problems of virtually all type and size, Direct Dimensions was up to the task. In March 2008, Direct Dimensions team members Glenn Woodburn and Jon Wood drove the company van to the Clipper Mill facility with a FARO LS Laser Scanner, a long-range, large-volume spherical scanner that can digitize vast open spaces with precision very quickly. Over the course of a single day, they performed 23 scans of the facility from different positions, each taking about 10 minutes. In order to capture the complex roof truss structures, the scanner was even mounted inside a lift and raised into the air for some of the scans.

The scanner, mounted on a tripod like a camera, collected raw data in the form of a dense 3D ‘point cloud’ of millions of coordinates of the elements within the facility. In the end, these 3D laser images formed a high-definition survey of the entire building space, a process that could take weeks using conventional survey measurement tools.

Upon returning to the Direct Dimensions facility in Owings Mills, the raw data scans were loaded into PolyWorks software and then coordinated and aligned together to form a single point cloud of the entire space. Even at this initial stage, any measurement can be extracted from any location within the entire facility as if using a virtual tape measure.

In addition, this dense point cloud can quickly be sliced to cut sections at any location to create traditional architectural drawing styles. In order to help with initial planning, the architects worked real-time with our engineers during this initial processing to obtain desired dimensions quickly. This process proved much faster, more accurate, and more comprehensive than the conventional techniques using a long tape or even a single point distance laser – and all with no ladders.

During a second phase of data analysis, Direct Dimensions produced multiple 2D “as-built” drawings from the laser scan data to accurately document the Tractor Building’s exact interior measurements. This drawing package included plan views and elevations with the locations and configuration of the historical structural elements that would remain in the new design for the space. These traditional architectural drawings provide the as-built blueprint for the designers and engineers at Struever to efficiently redevelop the space within the context of the site’s actual structural elements.