Using Laser Scanning Technology to Record the LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse

By Sehila Casper posted 02-25-2020 10:25


When driving down Bagby Street in Houston, Texas, a bustling one-way throughway, you will zoom right by a white stucco two-story structure. If you do notice the old house that was built in 1907, you may not think anything about the unassuming, and decaying, building. The LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse is one of the most historically and architecturally significant structures in Houston, and in a city not keen on historic preservation, it is surprisingly, still standing.

Laser Scanning at LULAC
Reality IMT team conducting the 3D laser scan. | Credit: Sehila Mota Casper

In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse a National Treasure. In the 1950s, the Clubhouse became the headquarters of one of the most influential U.S chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). From 1955 to 2013, the Houston LULAC Clubhouse served as a the LULAC Council 60’s headquarters. The Clubhouse was the epicenter of Mexican American Civil Rights political organizing during the 1950s and 60s, some of the most formative years in Mexican American Civil Rights history. Council 60 and national LULAC president John H. Herrera helped win a Supreme Court case in 1954 to give Mexican Americans the right to serve on juries. President John F. Kennedy visited with Council 60 at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas on the day before he was assassinated in 1963. This was the first time that a sitting president had appeared at a LULAC event.

Documenting a National Treasure

As a National Treasure, the National Trust is working with our local partners to help save this endangered building. The two-story building has many issues, including a severely leaking roof, failing stucco cladding, and numerous structural issues. Sadly, all of these issues were exacerbated when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in September of 2017.

As we considered its endangerment, and the potential loss of material of this historic and cultural site, it was vital that we survey and document this fragile site. The National Trust partnered with Houston’s three-dimensional (3D) laser scanning experts, Reality IMT to conduct a 3D laser scan of the exterior of the building and digitally record the Clubhouse. Owner Ala Hamdan and his team came and surveyed the building using their tripod-mounted scanner at multiple locations around the property to capture the details of the building with +/- 1 inch in” accuracy.

The result was millions of points in 3-dimensional space, called a pointcloud, that mapped out all the details of the façade. Reality IMT then imported the pointcloud into Revit, a building information modelling (BIM) software used by architects and engineers. In Revit, they used the pointcloud to create a 3D model of the house with precise dimensions.

View of the 3D model created by the pointcloud capture of the LULAC Clubhouse.

Once complete, we could see aspects of the house that we had never seen before. The 3D model provided a closer look at the architectural details and condition of the house—allowing us to zoom in closely at various viewpoints, and analyze details that had not yet been assessed.

While the documentation itself was our leading reason for the scan, we knew that having the pointcloud data would benefit our architect in the rehabilitation design phase of this project. The architect will now have access to a highly accurate and digital record of the building at that moment in time, which will streamline the rehabilitation design by relieving the architect of many difficult to access measurements, paint color information, and other detailed documentation of the building’s elements.

With this complete digital picture of the house, we’ve enhanced our understanding of the property and helped strengthen our priorities during the stabilization process. The preservation of LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse proceeds with the reassurance that this building is recorded for generations to come.

Sehila Mota Casper is the senior field officer at the National Trust’s Houston Field Office.