A New Solution to an Unreachable Problem

December 18, 2014

As a firm that has been in business since 1888, Schoel Engineering is no stranger to unique client requests. However, a recent situation challenged our use of traditional methods versus high-tech. An architectural firm in Great Britain wanted an accurate 3D representation of the Galleria Mall food court in Birmingham, AL, in order to locate and install some new architectural elements. It is the state’s largest and busiest shopping mall, and the food court is enclosed in a massive glass atrium. The design firm was on a tight deadline, and the mall could not be disturbed during business hours.


Schoel determined that taking a laser scan and converting it into a 3D model would work and provide a great level of detail. Our team worked at night, after the mall closed, over the course of three nights. We also kept our crew on the ground, which was difficult because the atrium roof of the Galleria food court starts at 65 feet tall and arches to a maximum height of 150 feet.

Once our laser scans were complete, we used the data to create an accurate point cloud, which was imported into AutoCAD to create the model. After the model was submitted to the architect and the architectural design for the new elements was completed, then traditional methods were utilized to locate and set points for the new elements to be installed. A reflectorless total station was used to perform this operation.

During the design phase, the architect came back and needed some additional detail that was not part of the original request (the location of 2-inch sprinkler heads in the atrium ceiling). As it turns out, due to the density of our scan, the additional information had already been collected, so no additional fieldwork was required.


Laser scanning can be used to gather information that at one time was virtually impossible or impractical to obtain from traditional surveying methods. Because laser scanning technology is so detailed, it collects information that perhaps you don’t even know you need. This has proven invaluable to Schoel in complex environments. In addition, we completed the job faster, and our crews were safer because they didn’t have to leave the ground to get the data.