Groundbreaking new technology could help preserve, repair and maintain some of Scotland’s most historic buildings.
A new software tool, which is the culmination of research conducted by Heriot-Watt University, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the University of Edinburgh, will enable surveys and inspections of historic sites to be carried out digitally.
The tool uses a combination of laser scanning and photogrammetry to create highly-accurate 3D models of buildings and structures. Data gathered through these methods will make it easier to detect wear and tear at historic sites and improve repair processes.
It is even capable of providing detailed information on the amount of stone and mortar required to carry out repairs on damaged masonry.
Long-term, the technology could be used to enable automated analysis of buildings and provide alternative methods of inspection for workers. Often, inspections require manual surveys and scaffolding to be erected.
Researchers also said the new technology could support efforts to tackle climate change by enhancing both the ease and efficiency of repair projects, as well as through sparing costly materials.
Dr Alan Forster, Associate Professor in Building Conservation at Heriot-Watt University, commented: “Financial austerity forces us to focus more than ever on cost-efficient, accurate evaluation of our historic buildings.
“The ability of our open-source digital technologies to support these activities enables the money for repair to be spent where it is most urgently needed, namely on the building itself.”
The tool has been made free-to-use in the hope that it will be widely adopted by professionals involved in the conservation of historic sites and buildings.
Dr Forster added: “Conservation companies, whether large or small, will benefit from the open-source software giving them greater confidence in accurately costing their work, and saving time and materials all within a safer working environment.
“The ultimate winners are local communities and wider society that should see more of their much-loved historic buildings conserved better with a lower environmental impact.”
Dr Frederic Bosche, Senior Lecturer in Construction Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, insisted that technology will play an increasing role in the maintenance and conservation of historic sites throughout the UK.
He said: “Digital technologies have a great role to play in optimising our resources and use of human expertise to preserve our rich historic built environment.
“This tool aims to improve the efficiency of what is otherwise tedious and time-consuming work, and thereby frees surveyors to focus on activities that really demand their expertise.”
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Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager at HES, added: “Scotland is home to a rich and diverse built environment of around half a million traditional buildings.
“Around 20% 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.”