Tackling complex site measuring
April 5, 2010 | 7:00 pm CDT

When the Milwaukee architectural millwork firm Glenn Rieder Inc. won a contract for a major remodeling project at Miami’s legendary Fountainebleau Hotel, they were immediately faced with a huge logistics challenge. Not only was the job far from their Midwest base, but it would require especially complex curved work. Very accurate measurements were needed and had to be done right the first time.

To meet this challenge, the folks at Glenn Rieder hired a relatively new kind of business, a team that specializes in just measuring. Measure Crew LLC, a company based out of North Carolina, uses a sophisticated program developed by ETemplate Systems to accurately perform site measurements. The system has been used successfully by many shops for basic projects such as kitchen layouts, but this job would be different.

Following the curves 

Long a standout in Miami architecture, the Fountainebleau is all about curves. “There’s not a straight wall in there,” says Richard Howard of Measure Crew. “It’s a really neat looking place.” But measuring those curves is another thing.

There are chandeliers that go up into domes, and Glenn Rieder needed measurements to accurately build soffets around them. There is a spiral stairwell that all had to be paneled. There is a big bar in the welcome area with lots of overhead measuring to be done.

Two men from Measure Crew took four days to do the site measuring work and five to seven days afterward to process all the information.

How it works 

ETemplate uses a combination of photography and software to compile accurate digital measurements. The measuring team places special targets on site and takes photos from different angles. They also place scales in the scene that are a known measurement.

“It’s just geometry,” says Howard. “The scale is exactly 42 inches. We try to keep a scale in every picture and try to overlap pictures. A typical kitchen can be done in five pictures.”

The photos are then downloaded into the software program, which extrapolates all the measurements needed.

“We digitize it,” says Howard. “If the company needs just field measurements, when they get it from us it’s already in CAD, and they can build whatever they are doing in CAD. We try to do as much digitizing as possible because it’s more accurate.”

Besides accuracy, the system also has other advantages over conventional measuring, says Howard. “If you miss something, you can go back (in the program) and create a way point to create a more accurate measurement without having to physically go back to the site.”

Howard use to be in the cabinet business. “The biggest problem was always measurement,” he says. “You’d have to send people back to check or remeasure. This system is a little more work, but your behind is covered. Lasers, if you screw up, you still have to go back. And story sticks can be broken.”

Howard and his partner Tipper Davis see broad applications for this kind of measuring. “We’ve done custom sport boat interiors with complex radiuses going two or three ways,” he says.

Client happy 

In the case of the Fountainebleau project, the client was pleased with the results. “This was our first time to outsource measuring,” says Thomas Siehr, drafting manager, Glenn Rieder, Inc. “We heard about the technology and decided to give it a try. It worked.”

Siehr says the system was a good solution to this particular measuring challenge. “It wasn’t practical to measure by hand,” he says. “This lends itself more to different kinds of work.” He noted that this was a complex remodel rather than new construction. All the curvilinear work was easier to template digitally than doing it all by hand, he says.

He also had praise for the Measure Crew team. “They were certainly great to work with,” he says.

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.