Paracosmic: One MEP’s Journey into 3D scanning

In 2014, William Speakman, a spirited BIM Analyst, was determined to find a scanning solution for his Denver-based, MEP-focused firm Caveo Consulting Engineers, which specializes in healthcare facilities. When he came across an article about Paracosm on, he contacted us right away, signed up for the Beta version of our Professional Scanning Toolkit, and thus, began his journey into 3D scanning.

“When I first discovered Paracosm’s technology, I was really curious to see what it could do,” recalls Speakman. “We’re very forward-thinking at Caveo, however, requesting to work with emerging technology was a pretty big leap for us. The tech was new, there’d be a learning curve, but the potential improvements… made it worth the risk.”

With the support of management, Speakman says he explored several scanning methods, but could not find a good fit. “With laser scanning, you need a supercomputer to work with the enormous file sizes and hours in post-processing work to even use the data,” he notes. “Because we do MEP for healthcare, we’re mindful of the sensitive environments we’re in. A scanning crew with a tripod-mounted machine doesn’t work well in areas where patients are recovering.”

Also, many clients found it hard to justify the high cost. “But the benefits are obvious, especially if you’re trying to make a precise 3D model in Revit based on hand-drawn notes from the field. Since the quality of our product is paramount, it was clear that finding an alternative to laser scanning would be key to getting us there.”

A year and some months later, Speakman and his engineer colleagues at Caveo now are glad that they took that initial risk, and the benefits keep growing. “Even though we’ve been at this for a while, we’re still discovering new ways that scanning saves us time and money on our projects,” he notes.

With more than 800 scans under his belt, he arguably has perfected his workflow and successfully trained the engineers and technicians in his firm’s two main offices in North Carolina and Colorado. Caveo now uses Paracosm scanning on nearly all of its projects, he says.

“(3D Scanning) is especially helpful in complicated environments, like mechanical rooms and above ceilings”

— William Speakman, Caveo Engineers

“It’s especially helpful in complicated environments, like mechanical rooms and above ceilings,” he said. “This has saved us hours in survey time, eliminating the need to take hand measurements on every single item, return trips to a site because of something someone overlooked, or forgot to mention, and of course, time spent drawing things over and over again because of misinterpreted field mark ups. It’s hard to imagine my job without it now,” he says with a chuckle.

Of course, the benefits have run both ways. As Beta users, Caveo has provided valuable feedback to guide our development and helped us fine-tune some specific features for the AEC industry. For instance, when we learned that Speakman was spending a lot of time getting our point clouds ready to use, we were able to fix the issue in less than 48 hours, adding a new .rcp file download option so that he can now import his data directly into the program he uses the most: Autodesk Revit.

In fact, Caveo is so enthused about its experience that it now stands ready to be evangelists. “We’ve had a lot of practice so we’re happy to help others implement this technology into their existing workflows,” says Speakman. “We’ve trained our people in-house, and we can’t wait to introduce others to scanning and working with point clouds.”

We agree that scanning shouldn’t be something that only large firms can afford to do. Firms that model in 3D, and coordinate in 3D, should also be able to survey and design in 3D—it’s essential to delivering an accurate BIM model to clients. If we make scanning accessible to firms of all sizes, that will revolutionize the way the AEC industry does business.

The author spoke at BuiltWorlds’ recent CEO Tech Forum. He will be appearing June 6 in Indianapolis at the 2016 MCAA Construction Technology Conference. Rubin is part of the BuiltWorlds Tech Tools Test Drive panel, moderated by BW co-founder Matt Abeles.