When considering changing the look of an existing building, there are a couple of terms that may be similar upon first correspondence but are very different in meaning. They are Renovation, Restoration, Preservation, and Conservation.
This term simply refers to making an object look new. The historical background, materials, and methods used are not important. The engineers working on this kind of project have no limitations except the needs of the client.
To restore means to bring back the object to a former position or condition. The most important thing here is the final look of the object. Both the engineer and the client choose the most desirable period of that object’s life and all the work done is consistent with that time period.
Preservation means to keep an object from destruction by keeping it exactly as it is. No alterations nor changes should occur because the most important thing is originality. While working on the preservation of an object, additional layers of data for materials and methodology must be included. Because here the final result is not as important as retaining the building fabric and using the same methods that were once used.
In conservation, the object itself is the inspiration for the whole process. Here the design, materials, and historical heritage are prolonged through carefully planned interventions.
Sometimes a project involves a couple of these categories, so the engineers must be very precise as every detail is important.
Some argue that Building Information Modeling should be considered a process and not a technology, as it connects all the information of the 3D models that it includes. Through BIM everything is controlled from a single source of truth. From the planning phase to the management, maintenance, and eventually restoration. One of the most important features of BIM is also interoperability, which allows all the professional that interact in any way with that object to be informed about everything the other team members of predecessors did or are planning to do.
This revolutionary technology in construction is mostly implemented into the projects early, long before the actual construction work starts, as it allows detailed planning and cooperation of the whole team on a different more productive level.
With this in mind, in the past, some heritage professionals argued can BIM really helps the process of conservation and restoration? But now, with more projects featuring this technology the many benefits are out in the clear.
This happened because the efforts of modeling and converting to smart objects are high with the already existing building, and the older the building the higher the data behind it. There are also problems with uncertainty and interpretation of the documentation that already exists. Overall, the heritage buildings usually do not allow standardization procedures, which is a huge strength of BIM, as they are a result of different historical layers, additions, demolitions, changes, and usage of different functions.
When a building is a national heritage and considered a protected object that we want to last for many more decades, the more detailed work we put into it sooner the better will be the outcome.
The other strength of BIM is the many precise layers of data, that involve every tone of the specter from the history of the object. With the devoted work of specialized professionals in the fields of conservation and restoration and the benefits of the technology, we can store, keep and use the data which will later prove to be the most valuable thing we have to keep the heritage for the generations to come.
By documenting the time period changes, materials used, methods that are implemented in the construction, and all the design features, we mark our history, we combine our hard work, and we leave it to forever be available to others.
BIM technology very often implements and uses the benefits of other technologies. For instance, 3D laser mapping, 3D printing, and point clouds are all being successfully used for mapping the terrain and more efficiently executing the conservation and restoration projects for buildings across the world. There have also been interesting experiences in the use of videogame engines to perform a virtual tour of a 3D model populated with the related data.
Also, we must mark that there is always a place for improvement. Maybe the next step that will get technology and heritage closer will be implementing new heritage-specific layers in BIM, like historical data, condition, environmental parameters, risks to the materials, and their forecasts.
We are very eager to see what will the future of technology hold!