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Preserving Edwardian architecture using 360º imaging

Formby Surveys Ltd is a specialist in high-tech precision measurement solutions, providing a variety of professional sectors with land, property and specialist surveying services. Its dedicated and motivated team utilise the latest technology and instrumentation in conjunction with a complete ‘field to finish’ quality assurance procedure.

At Formby Surveys, we have been using the iSTAR Fusion for a couple of years to help with maximising our time when surveying a site.Whether we need to survey every room in a hotel, or an architecturally significant site such as One Great George Street; the iSTAR Fusion helps reduce our field times and improves the quality of product to our client.

Andy Roberts, Managing Director, Formby Surveys

During the summer of 2015, under contract to international built asset consultancy firm Arcadis NV, Formby Surveys delivered a new set of as-built drawings of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) headquarters at One Great George Street in London’s Borough of Westminster. These drawings were completed prior to embarking upon an upcoming renovation of this famous and architecturally significant building. 

One Great George Street is a Grade II listed Edwardian building situated close to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and St James’ Park. Inside, it houses a range of function rooms that host events ranging from conferences, through to weddings and gala dinners; together with the great hall and the ICE’s library.

One Great George Street holds special interest as a four-domed building that is also one of the earliest examples of steel frame construction. Its internal style has been described as a “modern rendering of the late Renaissance”. Portland stone is used extensively and many of the rooms are ornately decorated with French walnut and oak panelling, carved plaster ceilings and elaborate crystal chandeliers.

Announced in September 2015, the renovation of the building was a series of works designed to further improve facilities for visitors, increase energy efficiency and improve accessibility. As part of the ICE’s “Shaping the World” initiative, a state-of-the-art interactive Knowledge Centre and exhibition space will be created in the ICE’s main library and a new member’s lounge will be created in the upper library.

Using the latest imaging technologies, Formby Surveys delivered to Arcadis an as-built drawing set of floorplans for each of One Great George Street’s rooms.

Given the significance of the building’s domed architecture and neo-classical designed ceilings, the surveying firm also returned a set of vertical elevations and roof survey in One Great George Street’s Library and Great Hall that included providing reflected ceiling plans of rooms that are due to undergo renovation work. The reflected ceiling plan shows a view of the room as if looking from above, at an imaginary mirror installed one foot below the ceiling level which shows the reflected image of that ceiling.

On this project Formby Surveys used multiple laser scanning systems coupled with traditional survey techniques to collect the data necessary for accurate dimensioning and drafting of the as-built drawings.The laser scanning systems used by the firm collect 1,000,000 3D survey points per second, all to millimetre accuracy, from a sequence of survey positions throughout the building.

To best capture the ornate nature of One Great George Street’s rooms though meant that high definition photographic imagery was also of great assistance to Formby Surveys’ drafting teams to interpret the site’s structures.

To capture photographic imagery of the site, Formby Surveys deployed its NCTech iSTAR Fusion. Designed for rapid 360 degree imaging, the iSTAR Fusion precisely captures full spherical immersive images for efficient visual documentation of the environment.

Formby Surveys has been using the iSTAR Fusion for several years to help with maximising time when surveying a site. Whether it needs to survey every room in a hotel, or an architecturally significant site such as One Great George Street; the iSTAR helps reduce time on-site and improves the quality of the firm’s product to its clients.

A seamless high resolution image of the surrounding walls, all the way up to the ceiling directly above the camera, was captured from each camera position. In the context of compiling internal elevations and reflected ceiling plans, this enabled ornate in-room features to be better interpreted in the drafting process.

While laser scanning captures precise 3D survey data of a room, undertaking a full spherical capture of the scene, using the automatic high dynamic range capabilities of the iSTAR Fusion camera, provided clarity to the Formby Surveys team who needed to interpret each room’s intricate and domed ceiling features. They then compiled these panoramic images into an immersive virtual tour, and used the same iSTAR Fusion data to colourise the terrestrial laser scanning data using the iSTAR Fusion ColourCloud utility.

From these datasets, the Formby team were able to deliver the necessary plan and elevation drawings for the site. Through incorporating immersive imagery from iSTAR into its survey activities, Formby Surveys was able to undertake further quality checks against the plans and elevations that it was producing, and consequently return a better product to its customer, Arcadis NV.

Designers and decision-makers intuitively know how to interpret photographs and often prefer to use them rather than other technical information, such as design drawings, when assessing existing site conditions. The iSTAR imaging system provided a fast and systematic method of capturing high resolution panoramic imagery through the rooms.

Through deploying this specialist 360º camera in the survey process, Formby Surveys was able to provide a better product, especially of roof and ceiling detail.Not only does this imagery provide a precise time-stamped record of this historic environment before work is undertaken, the dataset enables teams to interactively ‘walk through’ these rooms to assess the impact of their decisions, all from the convenience of their desktops.