The use of 3D imaging technology has played a crucial role in preserving environments of the past. It’s having even more of an impact in preserving historic buildings today. As the Smithsonian Magazine outlines, there are hundreds of sites on the National Trust for Historic Preservation list that need desperate attention. Often, preserving these buildings is a case of preserving their foundations and bedrock that they were built on. Understanding how this process begins is crucial in understanding how LiDAR can be deployed and ultimately used to safely preserve a building.
The strength of a building is often based on its foundations. When it comes to historical buildings, many of which may have been built without regulations in place as to a minimum standard, this can be an area of contention. As the Wisconsin Historical Society outlines, there are three primary basement types in historical buildings – full, crawl-space and partial. Ensuring that the basement is up to standard for the property is of course key, but so is historical preservation. Conservation and preservation are two distinct tracts of the historic building preservation cycle, and they necessitate sensitive management of basement areas to ensure that history isn’t lost. This is where LiDAR can play a key role.
LiDAR can be used to map and provide 3D environments replicating historical contexts. It can also be used to accurately map and develop a full picture of a historic space and help conservationists to work on it without causing potential damage, and while retaining the full historic profile of the piece to be preserved. Laser-based fluorescence LiDAR is particularly relevant. An influential study published by the OSA established the use of such technology in historic preservation, and highlighted the fact that LiDAR can help to identify materials in a far more precise and fine way than the human eye. This means that every last detail of the original piece can be remembered and restored. This is already being put to good use across the world.
Nowhere is this better seen than in the UK. Historic England have laid out their use of laser scanning and LiDAR to help preserve and conserve historic places, and have now started to produce guidance for would-be conservators to help them make an impact on a day-to-day basis. This has seen the enhanced preservation of builds across the country actioned, and a fantastic set of data and recordings to provide interactive access to some of the country’s most important historical sites. This technology has, arguably, enabled conservators and historians in England to take their game to the next level and create a stable of historical records to inspire and influence the future.
Keeping the buildings restored to the greatest level possible makes all of that possible. Being able to see and feel historic architecture is just as important as having digital records. LiDAR achieves that, and more, and is a superb tool for the modern history buff.
By Jennifer Willman
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