New software tool could transform the management of traditional buildings

22 May 2020
Innovative new technology which could transform how Scotland’s historic buildings are managed, maintained and repaired has today (22 May) been launched by Historic Environment Scotland.

The software tool, which allows surveys and fabric inspections of traditional buildings to be carried out digitally, has been developed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), The University of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University.

How does it work?

The tool uses a combination of data from laser scanning, which gives precise 3D data in the form of a point cloud, and photogrammetry, which involves the use of multiple overlapping digital photos, which creates a realistic 3D model of a building.

From this data, it can then automatically segment a facade into component parts, making it easier to detect defects within masonry and extract information regarding the amount of stone and mortar required for conservation repair works.

The tool has been made freely accessible for the conservation sector to use, in the hope that it will be widely adopted by professionals involved in the conservation and maintenance of traditional buildings.

Laser scanning and photogrammetry, used in combination with this technology, could greatly improve the efficiency of surveying historic buildings, enabling rapid automated analysis to be undertaken remotely, and offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional methods of inspection which require manual survey and often scaffolding.

Championing laser scanning

Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager at HES, said: "Scotland is home to a rich and diverse built environment of around half a million traditional buildings. Around 20 percent of the nation’s housing stock is made up of traditional buildings, and it is crucial that these existing assets can be repaired, maintained and adapted effectively to support national sustainability commitments.

"Any repair work to historic buildings must be carried out sensitively, and traditional masonry surveys to identify what conservation work is required can be costly and complex.

"This new tool offers the advantage of being able to conduct inspection and analysis of 3D data remotely, while still obtaining precise results."

"We hope that by making this new technology freely available we can champion the benefits and possibilities that laser scanning and photogrammetry can offer to the management of traditional buildings, and encourage wider adoption of these methods to help protect our precious historic buildings and promote the importance of reuse for a sustainable future.”

Find out more about the project here.

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Report and image courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland.