3-D Modeling Prevents Construction Conflicts at Orlando Int'l

Jim Faber
Published in: 

Orlando International

When Orlando International Airport recently converted office space into baggage handling space, the judicious use of technology saved time and money during the changeover.

The building renovation was part of a $79.5 million baggage handling system project designed to improve the speed and efficiency of baggage screening and movement at Florida's busiest airport. The project also removed SUV-sized baggage handling machines from the passenger terminal - a change that will allow a more comfortable experience for travelers, notes airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell.

To make room for the new baggage handling system, demolition crews ripped out roughly 40,000 square feet of office space in the "central pod" between Terminals A and B.

Problem was, the space shared essential services including plumbing, electrical connections and heating/conditioning with other areas that needed to remain operable during renovations; areas including a food court one floor directly above the new baggage system area.

Facts & Figures


3-D Facility Scans


Orlando Int'l Airport

General Contractor:

PCL Construction

Scanning Contractor:


Area Scanned:

Roughly 40,000 sq. ft.

Key Benefit:

Preparing space for a new baggage handling system (BHS) without disrupting activity in surrounding areas.

Overall BHS Project Cost:

$79.5 million

BHS Equipment:

Jervis B. Webb Company


Webb Airport Systems

Installation Contract:

$7 million

Conflict Avoidance

 General contractor PCL Construction turned to ScanWorks, an affiliate of Five Star Airport Alliance, to help it complete the new construction without disrupting services to the rest of the building. After demolition of the offices, ScanWorks crews spent a little less than two weeks scanning the building to create a three-dimensional model of the area.

The model shows building structures (walls, beams, columns, etc.), HVAC components, electrical equipment, an existing conveyor and pipes and conduit larger than 1/4-inch in diameter. According to Jose Mesa, general manager of ScanWorks, the model is accurate to within 2 mm.

A PCL staff member combined data from the scans with design plans and building models to create one digital file, a task that took more than one-third of his time for about four months.

The 3-D model that resulted came in incredibly handy when crews installed the new baggage handling system, which required its own mechanical systems, into an area already full of ducts and wiring.

"The area of installation was congested with existing structures and utilities," recalls Randall Ellington, project manager for PCL. "The scan provided an exact as-built of the existing conditions."

PCL was also able to run clash detection, that is, to look for problems between the needs of the baggage handling system and the other utilities in the construction area.

"To accurately represent what was in the field would have taken countless hours of engineering time to physically measure and record all of the utilities and structures, not to mention the time it would have taken to input all of that data into a digital format that we could run our analysis with," Ellington explains. "The scan significantly reduced the time that was needed to accurately produce an existing condition. Most conflicts with the system wouldn't have been identified until installation and field rework would have cost time and money."

In all, more than 150 potential conflicts were discovered at Orlando International, Mesa reports. Most were small conduit and objects "a little too close for comfort." About 20, however, were pivotal - items including a large bank of telecommunication conduit and sewer pipes. "They would have brought the project to a screeching halt during construction if left unresolved," he notes.

Penetrating the Airport Sector

According to Mesa, 3-D scanning technology is still "catching on" in the airport sector even though it has been around for about a decade. ScanWorks cites more than 14 U.S. airport projects since 2005; refineries, treatment plants and civil engineering applications such as bridges are more typical customers for the company.

Mesa uses the installation of a new power conduit to explain the benefits of his company's scanning services: "If installed at the location or elevation that is called for in the drawings, it will go right through an existing air duct that is not going to move," he describes. "In the past, this problem wouldn't arise until construction and installation had begun. The subcontractors would have to stop what they were doing to resolve the problem before they could move on. You can imagine that this would cause a delay in the schedule and cost the contractor and owner money in change orders."

All But Done

In late April, the majority of Orlando International's new baggage handling system was installed and testing had begun. The system manufacturer, Jervis B. Webb Company, has long been a material handling system supplier to the automotive industry; but company officials report that airport projects have become a growth market.

Webb Airport Systems installed the new conveyors, baggage make-up devices, electrical controls and computer systems for monitoring and reporting at Orlando International.


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