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Union Terminal using 21st century technology to save early 20th century architecture

CINCINNATI – As teams finalize plans for the renovation of 83-year-old Union Terminal, they’re getting an assist from new technology. A recently-completed laser scan of the building produced a 3D model that will be an essential asset for architects and designers as they begin the renovation.

Truescan3D, a division of the Kleingers Group, working with GBBN Architects, spent three months setting up and processing over 2,000 individual scan stations throughout the interior and exterior of Union Terminal, even using drones to survey the exterior. Each scan produced up to 100 million data points per scan. Union Terminal’s Rotunda and Concourse alone produced a total of 4.3 billion data points. In total, over 600,000 square feet of building measurement data was collected of Union Terminal’s interior and exterior – over two terabytes of data.

“Being a Cincinnati-based firm, it’s an incredible feeling to be involved in a local project with such national historical significance,” said David Cox, Truescan3D director of reality capture. “We had two scanning teams working two shifts for several weeks on the data collection effort. Our teams looked at each day as a new adventure as they explored and examined every inch of the historic structure. The size and complexity of the project is unmatched in our history and probably ranks as one of the largest 3D scanning projects in the region.”

The scanning technology saved the architectural and engineering team thousands of hours in field documentation and measuring and also resulted in a more accurate 3D building model, which will be equally valuable to the construction team throughout the project.

“The laser scan allowed us to compare data points to the existing documents, and determine whether variations were due to deterioration or previous alterations,” says Steve Kenat, principal and director of community development of GBBN Architects. “This knowledge has helped tremendously in prioritizing repairs, and in planning the restoration.”

The scan data allow Truescan3D to create 3D renderings of Union Terminal, which will provide GBBN and Turner Construction with highly accurate data and measurements; measurements are accurate to within 1/16 of an inch. In addition to providing spatial measurements of walls, floors and ceilings, the scans also provide incredible detail on mechanical systems, structural components and architectural components. More accurate information reduces the likelihood of errors in measurement and ultimately helping reduce costs.

Blueprints and original drawings of Union Terminal from its original construction began in 1929 serve as valuable reference points. However, as the nation struggled through the Great Depression, Union Terminal found itself facing similar financial concerns through its construction. A major change resulted in the building’s iconic half dome and Art Deco style, a more economical architectural choice over the initial classical style. As construction continued, adjustments were made to the original plans, resulting in some notable differences between the blueprints and the finished building.
“It may be a bit of a surprise to some but not all buildings are actually built according to the original plans and specifications. Union Terminal is no exception,” says Bob Grace, project executive with Turner Construction Company. “The 3D scan is a valuable tool in the modern day construction toolbox. It gives us, as the Construction Manager, a way to see into the building and know exactly what the existing conditions are and what we will need to connect to and work around in the construction process. This certainty of information allows all of the contractors to plan efficiently, avoid costly construction conflicts and take advantage of offsite prefabrication opportunities.”

Even after Union Terminal opened in 1933, the building underwent several changes and modifications over the decades. Train traffic ceased operating out of Union Terminal in 1972 and shortly after a majority of the building’s concourse was demolished to accommodate larger freight through the still-active train yard. The interior spaces were transformed into a shopping mall in 1980, again altering the historic building. As Cincinnati Museum Center prepared to move into Union Terminal in 1990, the building underwent significant renovations to house exhibits and artifacts while attempting to restore some of the building’s historic spaces. The 3D scan of Union Terminal presents more accurate drawings of the building, providing another, more precise reference point to fact check both the original plans and subsequent building alterations.

“The intersection of technology, science and history here is remarkable,” says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “The cutting edge of modern technology is shedding light on engineering techniques that are nearly a century old, all in the process of saving a historic building that is such a vital piece of the community’s identity.”

The 3D renderings and building models produced by the scans are critical to the planning and execution of the renovation process. To GBBN and Turner they are highly valuable tools that will ensure the project proceeds in the safest, most thorough and economic manner. After Union Terminal is fully renovated the renderings will live on as a digital record accessible to future generations.

See a video produced by Truescan3D from the laser scanning project.

See the results of the 3D scan of the building exterior, the steel structure, and the Rotunda.

 


 

About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of a select few museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.

About GBBN Architects
GBBN Architects is a research-based design firm with a proven record of delivering inspiring, efficient, and sensitive building design and architecture. From our locations in Beijing, Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh, it is our passion to craft spaces that elevate our clients and communities. We find people thrive in memorable settings that evoke joy and capture imagination. We work tirelessly to craft these moments in physical spaces and believe they define the cultural character of our communities. Our commitment to collaboration and responsiveness as well as our dedication to developing value for clients has resulted in a practice built on a high percentage of repeat business.

About Turner Construction Company
Turner Construction Company’s Cincinnati office has served the healthcare, education, commercial and industrial construction markets for nearly 60 years, offering construction management, design-build, general contractor and related services on projects of all sizes. With a local staff of nearly 200, Turner proudly supports its local community. The Cincinnati office manages on average more than $250 million annually. Consistently ranked the leading sustainable builder in the nation, Turner was founded in 1902 in New York, NY, and operates through a network of offices in the U.S., including four offices in Ohio. For more information, please visit www.turnerconstruction.com/cincinnati.

About Truescan3D
Truescan3D, a division of The Kleingers Group, is located in Cincinnati and has completed hundreds of 3D laser scanning projects across the nation. Founded from a company of licensed surveyors, Truescan3D understands the importance of accurate measurement data and is focused on improving the efficiency and accuracy of our client’s data. In addition to 3D laser scanning, Truescan3D develops and converts point clouds into easy to use information and create building models. For more information, please visit www.truescan3d.com.