How Leica Geosystems and a Family of Surveyors are Literally Changing the New York City Skyline

Leica Geosystems’ BIM active construction positioning system is helping to build World Trade Center One (WTC1), previously known as the Freedom Tower. It will be the tallest office building in North America and, just last April, replaced the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York City. Head Surveyor Mike Kossuth works for DCM Erectors and is responsible for, as he says, keeping the building “straight and level.”

I originally thought this blog post would discuss how our BIM active construction positioning system is being used to help build the tallest and most symbolic office building in North America, WTC1. With that subject in mind, and with the help of Craig Hewes, a Leica Geosystems engineer, we organized a visit with WTC1 Chief Construction Surveyor Mike Kossuth. As soon as we started to talk “surveying,” I realized that the more interesting story was about how Mike, his family and Leica Geosystems were making a real and meaningful impact in New York City.

I first met Mike in his office, located in one of the many cargo shipping containers stacked in the middle of the extremely complex WTC1 construction site. The WTC1 site and surrounding construction sites were beehives of activity. There are at least five high-rise buildings being erected, as well as an underground transportation hub that is three to four times the size of WTC1. Mike estimates that 50 to 60 surveyors are working on these projects within the surrounding the area. In fact, we ran into a couple of surveyors from New Jersey who were using a Leica ScanStation C10 laser scanner and a Leica TCRP 1201 Total Station to pick up as-built data on an adjacent project.

So how does one become the Chief Surveyor of the most prestigious construction site in North America? There wasn’t a better spot to ask Mike this question than from the open and windswept 105th floor of the site itself.

“Surveying runs in the family,” said Mike. “My dad was a surveyor in the Korean War, and when he returned home he worked as a surveyor for a number of construction companies in New York City. My dad spent 42 years surveying buildings and was responsible for surveying during the construction boom in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. During that boom, the Battery Park region increased by 23.5 acres through the reclamation of earth excavated, ironically, during the original Twin Towers construction. “On a number of projects, it was a family affair – Dad was the Party Chief, and my brother Chuck and I were the rodmen!”

Mike fondly recalls how his dad used the Wild T16 to survey in New York and explains how the transportation hub project is three to four times larger than the WTC1 project. Mike’s brother, Chuck, is the Chief Surveyor on the transportation hub project, and he is also using Leica Geosystems solutions. Once completed, the new transportation hub will rival other iconic New York City transportation hubs, such as Grand Central Station and Penn Station.

The WTC1 and the transportation hub are adjacent to Battery Park, where Mike and his brother helped their father survey in the past. There is no better vantage point to view the visually prominent family heritage on the Manhattan skyline.
The integrated, active Leica Core Wall Control Survey System (CWCS) Mike uses has completely replaced the older methodology. In fact, for the past two years, Mike has used the solution exclusively. He is quick to explain what the system means to him and the overall project. From a productivity perspective, the CWCS saved Mike the cost of a second crew. It also provides quicker and more accurate service for the construction process, with less overall risk. This is critical, as the glass and metal curtain walls are fabricated offsite and installed to tight tolerances. Any onsite

reconstruction, because of deviations from design, is charged directly to DCM Erectors.
The Leica Geosystems solution also allows Mike to load the as-built data back into AutoCAD for further BIM related applications. Personally, I get a kick out of Mike’s explanation that Leica Geosystems solution makes him feel less stressed, and he now sleeps better. This is coming from a surveyor responsible for making the famous 1,776-foot WTC1 straight and level!
Mike’s work will be finished this winter, and the entire building should be completed by early 2014. Near the top, beside the Leica Nivel 5 inclination sensor, we signed one of the concrete columns on behalf of all Leica Geosystems employees. Just as Mike and his family of surveyors are proud to have surveyed many New York City landmarks, I was equally proud that our Leica Geosystems family and solutions could play such an important and substantial role in the building of such a symbolic project that means so much to so many people around the world.

Leica Geosystems solutions are helping reconstruct New York City’s World Trade Center One – that’s Shaping Change!

To learn more about how the Leica Geosystems solution is shaping change across the globe please click here. To see more photos of  WTC1 Construction, check out our album.


Ken Mooyman
Hexagon Geosystems NAFTA

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