Landscape Crossroads  

This mailer has been provided as an avenue of dispersing information related to landscape architecture in hopes of fostering greater understanding and collaboration between professions. Topics address issues that affect the built environment within which we live.


Using lasers to view landscapes from an entirely different perspective!

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.", Arthur C. Clarke

laser scanningFrom presentation pointers to eye surgery, lasers have become helpful technological tools embedded into many facets of our society. Landscape architecture and the design industry are riding the wave as lasers have become a tool that designers can utilize in broad reaching applications. 3D laser scanning is a new technology that, when directed by trained staff, is capable of collecting 50,000 site data points per second with a precision of 2mm and with ranges of up to 1,000 ft. Data points are comparable to traditional methods of survey data collection and can be accurate to within 1/8". As laser scanning can be utilized during all stages of the design process, this article will introduce you to how this technology can be used during site analysis, conceptual design, construction documentation, construction and post occupancy phases of many projects.


Site Analysis- First and foremost, 3D laser scanners are used to obtain survey data for existing sites. In addition to traditional topographical data, scans are also helpful with collecting incredible amounts of site data. Scans are not limited to grid shots of the ground plane, provide inclusive data about all site features, minimize safety issues arising from traffic conflicts, and can reveal unique information such as existing tree heights, canopy widths, and scaffold branch heights.

Conceptual Design- Due to the three dimensional nature of scan data, it can be used to create accurate models of large spaces within which proposed features can later be added and adjusted. The result is digital three dimensional models of proposed designs that can be animated, photographed, printed, modeled and even converted into holograms. This technology takes 3-D conceptual planning to a whole different level by allowing designers to explore the existing world from any vantage point, high or low, in great detail without ever leaving the ground. The ability to visualize a project with this level of detail can be incredibly valuable when seeking project buy in from project stakeholders.

Construction Documentation- Armed with a point cloud created by these scans, a designer can virtually visit a site at any time to make site measurements and investigate features and items that may have been overlooked on earlier site visits. The cloud can also be used to quickly and efficiently create topographic plans, floor plans of structures and site feature maps. Additionally, custom fabricated site furnishings and walls can be fabricated based on a scan of the existing space within which they must fit. Fabricators use real site data when constructing items that fit perfectly when delivered to the site, saving time and money in the field. Designers can now be confident that complex custom designed features can be painlessly implemented in the field!

Construction- After installation of site features, scans can be utilized to confirm conformance to plans. Issues such as concrete flatness, steel deflection, slope movement, and installation locations can be accurately measured and confirmed. Automatic review of all site slopes and ramps for ADA accessibility can be done quickly, unlike traditional methods of inspection performed by inspectors with smart levels and tape measures. All areas out of conformance can be automatically calculated and immediately recognizable. Complex plumbing and electrical stub locations can also be scanned prior to concrete pours and overlaid over original plans to determine if utilities are stubbed in correct locations. Each of these scanning applications saves time, money and effort. (The old saying, "measure twice, cut once" certainly applies here!)

Post Occupancy-Risk management is always an important item of concern. As-built scans capture conditions of the project at completion effectively documenting the site exactly as it is. The as-builts can then be used to show that the project was in conformance at time of completion. This may be of particular importance for areas of high risk such as playgrounds, skate parks and other recreational facilities.

logoAdditional applications for 3D laser scanning are vast and largely unexplored at this point. O'Dell Engineering is on the front lines discovering new and exciting ways to use this technology. If you would like additional information about this technology please click on the image to the left or on this link and provide your contact information. As a thank you for your interest we will send you a free gift and any information you request.


Prior Issues of Interest

- Universal / Inclusive Design - Part 1- Playgrounds
- Universal / Inclusive Design - Part 2 - Walks and Trails
- Playground Safety: What's the Big Deal?
- Artificial Turf: A Pros & Cons Review
- The Vestibular and Proprioceptive Sensory Systems

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Click the video below to visit our YouTube channel and see the presentation "Re-Introducing Nature to Recreation" by O'Dell's landscape architect at the CPRS Bay Area Institute held in Menlo Park



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Author: Chad Kennedy, Landscape Architect

This informational article provided by O'Dell Engineering - 1165 Scenic Drive, Suite A, Modesto CA 95350