The days of pulling out a sketchbook to record a building using one's hand and a pencil are long gone. Or at least, they could be. In recent years, the development of 3D imaging technology has allowed contractors, architects, and engineers to acquire a full scan of a building within seconds, with no more than the click of a few buttons. The creation of this technology is a result of a collaboration of many different companies, engineers, mathematicians, and architects, but my research comes from research published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). This technology rapidly compiles a massive amount of information--coordinates, points on an object, ranges--to create a flawless 2D "scan" of a building. Buildings that rise into the sky are quickly translated into 2D scans (most often compatible with the Auto CAD software), with dimensions and intricate features accurately labeled.
The data is collected using multiple distance-measuring tools that have left rulers and tape measures in the dust. My Dad is an architect, and he was recently explaining this technology to me. He pulled a laser distance measure out of his bag, turned it on, set it on the ground, and aimed it at the ceiling of the cafe in which we were enjoying a sandwich. Before I had even located the tiny laser point dancing above my head, the small machine beeped and showed a measurement on its screen. With the push of a button, we knew that the ceiling was 15 feet and 6.5 inches above our heads.
This technology is being used often for historic preservation or renovations of buildings. In the past few weeks, I have seen multiple building scanners (as seen below) set up along Michigan Ave, pointed upward to capture the dimensions and intricate flourishes of the skyscrapers.
Learning about this technology sparked my curiosity about its origins.
While it is hard to trace the first use of the 3d Imaging architectural or engineering purposes that AIA describes, it is interesting to consider the work environment that kindled this creative invention. This specific architecturally-oriented technology is undoubtedly categorized as employee creativity, as was described in Baer's "Rewarding Creativity" study: "
American Institute of Architects: Innovative Capture and Modeling of Existing Building Conditions
How We Got Here: A Brief History of 3D Imaging