Faithful to Old Faithful

Half of all the geysers in the world are in Yellowstone National Park, which is the first national park in the United States and probably in the world. President Grant signed the authorizing legislation in 1872.



Millions have come to Yellowstone, and many of the visitors find their way to the Old Faithful Lodge, which is just behind one of the best viewing spots to watch the regular eruptions.


Laser Scanning Old Faithful
A view of the geyser from Old Faithful Lodge and the laser scanner.

Millions of visitors, weather, and changing habits – the lodge was built when only the railroad brought tourists -- have taken their toll so from time to time, some refurbishment is in order. The National Park Service and Xanterra Travel Collection (the managing company) have chosen Mosaic Architecture as the architects to improve, with grace, this remarkable structure.


The Lounge at the lodge.
Scan-to-BIM
Revit model of the Lounge.
Full Color Laser Scan
A full color laser scan of the dining hall in the Lodge.

Full color laser scan of the Lounge.

The kitchen staff at the Old Faithful Lodge can predict exactly the times each day when the food services will be most taxed and crowded, which is five minutes after Old Faithful erupts. More visitors arrive at the lodge than ever before (the 2020 pandemic excepted) and the food service was not built to accommodate the bigger crowds. And tastes have changed. So another primary requirement for the project is modernizing and upgrading the entire food service.


A full color laser scan of the cafeteria.

Because the most recent changes were some twenty years ago, the applicable building codes have changed so the architect must take new code requirements into account. Applying code requirements on federal property can be a complicated problem. This can be expensive, and without special care can cause delays: See our article in the Verify 3D Library, Code Cost.

As you read the first paragraph of this article, you might have thought, “Why are half of the world’s geysers in Yellowstone?” Because Yellowstone sits in the caldera of an enormous volcano, and volcanoes bring earthquakes (and vice versa). So the architect has another responsibility, she must make recommendations about seismic retrofits and other changes to improve structural stability.

In addition to all the other requirements, the architect must maintain a sensitivity to the historic nature of the structure, even though it’s a consolidation of separate structures built over several decades. This is not an easy task, and it must start with a firm understanding of the current condition of the structure. According to Anna Lindstrand, it would have been “virtually impossible” to document the current conditions without the scans. She added that, to date, the scanning data has been even more valuable than the model. She said Xanterra and the National Park Service are already using the scanning data.


Laser scanner capturing MEP above a drop ceiling.

The point cloud and the CAD model each bring specific, unique data to the project, piquing team members to develop insights that otherwise would be lost. Compare the side by side images below. You can also see the comparison in the video.


And modeling tools can show more than shapes and their dimensions. For this project, Verify 3D applied textures to a number of objects in the Revit model to more accurately reflect reality. Here a closer look at the Revit model of the front of the Lodge.


Old Faithful Lodge is more than a cozy place for a respite from your trek through Yellowstone. It’s 33,400 square feet of services for many thousands of visitors each year. Verify 3D scanned the interior, the exterior, and all of the HVAC, mechanics, plumbing, and electric wiring above the ceiling tiles. The size of the structure, its age, and the changes made over the past hundred years reinforce Ms. Lindstrand’s opinion that documenting the lodge’s current condition would be infeasible without laser scanning.


Verify 3D has scanned and modeled quite a few historic buildings dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries, and our experience has shown that the older the building, the more valuable the laser scanning becomes. The older the building, the less likely any drawings – much less accurate drawings – are available. The older the building, the more likely that foundations, floors, and walls have settled or sagged. The older the building, the less likely the systems and structure meet current building codes. All of these conditions are accurately documented by laser scanning.


If you’d like a personal explanation or demonstration of the ways laser scanning can help you or if you'd like to speak to one of our clients, our contact information is directly below.

Because our experience in this technology dates back to 2002, Verify 3D knows the most appropriate equipment to use on each project and how to use it for the best benefit to our clients. For this project we used a Leica RTC360 laser scanner, and Leica Cyclone software for registration. Per contract, Verify 3D delivered ReCap point clouds and a 3D Revit model. Most of the delivered 3D model was created at Level of Development (LOD) 300.


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