Scanning Reservoir 3

Documenting the Existing Condition of Reservoir 3 in Jersey City, NJ

Projects - Jersey City Reservoir 3 Restoration

Laser Scanner Captures Historic Structures for Architectural Renovation

Constructed from 1871-1874, Jersey City’s Reservoir Number Three is important both for its historical structures and waterworks as well as for its status as the site of a burgeoning modern urban eco-system.

Reservoir 3 Background

Utilized as a source of potable water for both Jersey City and originally Ellis Island for over a hundred years, Reservoir 3 was shut down in the 1980s in favor of a newer facility. Drained in the 1990s, it began to fall into disrepair. Left alone for another ten years and the reservoir refilled naturally and plants and wildlife began to grow. By the early 2000s a mini eco-system containing many plant and animal species not common to such urban areas had evolved. The Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance was formed in 2002 to protect this rare urban environment from “destruction and misuse.”

Having saved the threatened Reservoir 3 from the destructive forces of decay and neglect, the Preservation Alliance had to fight a new threat. Local business and community groups, realizing the value of 14 “unused” acres pushed for the demolition of the Reservoir 3 and its subsequent redevelopment.

Thanks largely due to the perseverance and community organization of the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance, February 16, 2007, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy declared that the Reservoir would be preserved as an “urban oasis.” Over the next two years a plan was created for a city park that would preserve both the historical structures from the original waterworks and the reservoir dependant eco-system in a way that the surrounding community could enjoy for years to come.

An Experienced Preservation Team

In 2009 Jersey City awarded John Milner Associates the contract for the creation of the public park. John Milner Associates is a D.C.-based historic preservation firm; they have facilitated extensive historical restoration and re-development in cities like Baltimore, Washington DC, Boston, and others.

John Milner Associates planned a three stage approach to the Reservoir 3 project. The first stage includes historical research about key components of the site’s history to help form a plan for the historical preservation. The second phase consists of a thorough examination of the existing state of Reservoir 3, including all of its land and structures. The final phase is the actual historical preservation and park construction.

Having worked with Direct Dimensions in the past, the team at John Milner Associates knew that there were certain documentation challenges that could be solved using 3D laser scanning technologies.

The Reservoir 3 site contained three important structures: two large stone gate houses in a Romanesque style, and a tall brick screen house. The long term plan for the park is to repurpose the site and these structures for educational purposes by maintaining the original mechanical elements. To do this, John Milner Associates required an accurate dimensional plan of the as-built buildings in order to create the new development plans.

3D Scanning for Preservation

In November 2009, Direct Dimensions team members Glenn Woodburn and Dan Haga visited Reservoir 3 in Jersey City with a FARO LS Laser Scanner, a long-range spherical 3D scanner that can digitize vast open spaces with precision very quickly. Over the course of a single day, they performed 25 scans of the three buildings from different positions, each scan requiring about 10 minutes.

The scanner, mounted on a portable tripod similar to a camera, collected raw data in the form of a dense 3D ‘point cloud’ of millions of coordinates of the elements of each structure. In the end, these 3D laser images formed a high-definition survey of the three structures.

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 each of the structures. After the scans were aligned in PolyWorks, they were brought into Rhino using the Pointools plug-in to create engineered geometry-based models.

From the 3D models, Direct Dimensions produced multiple 2D “as-built” architectural drawings from the laser scan data to accurately document each building’s exact measurements. These traditional architectural drawings provide the as-built blueprint for the designers and engineers at John Milner Associates to efficiently redevelop the space for educational purposes while maintaining the sites’ actual historical, structural elements.