The Laser Doesn’t Lie Part II: Existing Building Documentation

By Michael Petrantoni – Architectural Technician – Retail Design






In the first part of The Laser Doesn’t Lie series, An Intro to Laser Scanning, you learned how it provides the information and data you need to make well-informed calculations and decisions and execute design ideas. In part two, we’ll discuss the challenges and strategies with obtaining existing building documentation utilizing scanners. 

One of the largest obstacles faced in existing building documentation is the measuring of a space that either has no floor plans, or the plans that do exist are so out of date they are rendered obsolete. Trying to accomplish an accurate spatial and elevational survey with traditional methods of measurement such as tape or laser with pen and paper proves to be much more time consuming and difficult — which, in turn, can lead to projects going over budget in the field portion and forcing stress in the office to make up for lost time. 

However, employing a laser scanner for documentation not only captures and measures both small and large areas with advanced 3D precision, it also simultaneously provides high-definition imagery of the space or objects being measured for future reference. When used properly and effectively, laser scanning can reduce initial field time and associated costs, while increasing productivity levels, enhancing accuracy and reliability, and drastically reducing the need for re-work and secondary visits. So how does one approach that? 

A Thorough Execution Plan 

In order to be effective in building documentation, a comprehensive execution plan must be outlined before leaving the office. This includes educating yourself on the standards of your company as well as your client, getting as much information as you can on the building/site you will be surveying, and establishing the overall project deliverable. A proper survey execution plan is completely invaluable and plays an essential role in obtaining an accurate and thorough survey. To get this, you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the primary purpose of this survey? What are we surveying and why? 
  • Why are we choosing to laser scan? Why not hand measure? 
  • Who is/are going to be the primary person/people doing the scanning? 
  • What is the overall level of accuracy and level of detail we need to achieve our goal? 

By obtaining these answers and more, you are ahead of the game – and when you arrive on-site, all field personnel have their assigned tasks and you can get right to work.  

The Equipment 

Choosing the right equipment for the job is a critical step that is often overlooked and should be taken very seriously. By understanding the instruments and their capabilities and which ones can handle the responsibility of the assigned task, you heighten the probability that you get the most accurate information in the most efficient amount of time.  

However, with multiple laser scanning machines and technologies available, it is recommended that you do your research to compare these capabilities. If you want higher precision, you may want to consider one type of scanner over another, as certain scanners can do more than others. Knowing the differences of what is available to you allows you to choose the right tool for your assigned job. 

Technology is an ever-changing, evolving entity that shows no signs of slowing down in the coming years, and laser scanning is no exception. These machines are very high-speed, accurate, and can deliver measurements far beyond traditional methods. This leaves you with the accurate, precise information that leads to a successful project.  

Founded in 1986, Larson Design Group is an award-winning national architecture, engineering and planning firm with 11 offices in four states and a vision to elevate client relationships, enrich the careers and lives of its employee-owners, and enhance the communities in which it operates. LDG’s Retail Design Division offers prototype design, interiors, building surveys, permitting, feasibility studies, planning and more. For more information, visit 

ArizonaNew YorkOhioPennsylvaniaWest Virginia