The most advanced knowledge is that which serves the future, not just records the past. Innovative new systems can collect details to the degree that a structure could be rebuilt and the copy would be indistinguishable from the original.

 


Advanced Survey Techniques

"The most advanced knowledge is that which serves the future, not just records the past. Innovative new systems can collect details to the degree that a structure could be rebuilt and the copy would be indistinguishable from the original item."


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Challenge

It doesn’t take much to cause harm to a historic structure. Even if the devastating effects of a flood, storm, insects, or fire never touch a historic house—it may still decay and return to dust, simply due to exposure to the everyday effects of the sun, rain, and gravity.

Water, even if a slow trickle or a gentle rain shower, is often most culpable for damage over time. Water causes the soil to compact or shift, the foundations settle, cracks occur in the structure, water intrudes, freeze and thaw cycles encourages the cracks to grow, and causes pieces of the masonry to spall off. Sun and rain fight against the paint’s protective barrier and results in fading or chipping. Even vegetation can harm structures, such as if resins cast off from certain plants encourages mold—or if moss and vines that have taken root on roofs or sides of structures, which accelerates the breakdown of the surface materials. Shade from neighboring structures provides cover for the moss or molds.

Numerous other natural forces are at work to destroy buildings, but there is one force even more dangerous: humans. Neglect, or outright intent to tear down and replace, is the most pronounced threat to those grand old homes. If the natural decay is allowed to occur, that can result in such extensive damage that repairs are extremely costly. Then, even those that treasure their homes may be tempted to make historically inappropriate changes...or simply give up and choose to build something new.

Why would a homeowner let a building decay right before their eyes? The main reason is that root causes are sometimes hidden and that the changes are so gradual. What is the most powerful tool for prevention of the loss? Money? Certainly, deep pockets are useful for maintaining structures. However, to potentially avoid larger remediation projects, something else is more valuable: knowledge! Only when accurate, detailed, expository data is collected regularly about the structure can the best diagnosis be made for prevention or treatment. The Folk Heritage Trust and its collaborators have identified radical, innovative means to perform unprecedented high fidelity, non-invasive surveys of historic structures.

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Surface Imaging

Imagine if a historic structure’s surface could be documented with a detailed digital record of every square inch of the surface. Could every architectural element’s dimensions, texture, and color be recorded forever more? This is the goal of the surface imaging project. However, one cannot just buy a high grade camera and start taking the pictures, because obstacles are in the way and the exact position of the camera relative to the object is not recorded. Additional challenges are to correct for perspective, lens distortion, or variations in lighting. Without overcoming those limits, how can an accurate visual portrayal and valid measurements be made from just the pictures?

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Structure Scan

Even if the exterior and interior surfaces of a structure are recorded in exacting detail, that is still only “skin deep.” Just like there is diagnostic value when a person’s body is imaged in a medical facility, without any invasive procedures, wouldn’t it be advantageous to be able to scan a whole house like that as well? Then, could every structural member, fastener, utility line, or other object contained within the walls be identified— both for position and composition? Damage from moisture, under-sized structural elements, degradation of fasteners, or even forgotten valuables tucked away for safekeeping, could be discovered. Thus, a survey below the surfaces can be very “illuminating.” TOP

   

 

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Digital Storehouse

Once the surface imaging and structure scan data is collected, it should be organized in a digital storehouse. Once safely placed there, how can this information be put to use? Measurements can be made for the dimensions of each architectural element and a 3-dimensional model made. Favored decorative fenestration of the past, such as architraves, astragals, cornice, festoons, lintels, verandas, or vestibules could be cataloged by era, style variation, or geographic location. If someone wanted to create an historically accurate, but newly conceived town, the data would be available...including how to make it more stabile over time. So, whether for study, art, or just the pleasure of looking at old places from the past, a storehouse of this type would be invaluable. TOP

 

   

 

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Next Steps

The Folk Heritage Trust is working with collaborators to identify the "best of breed" technologies to provide the innovative capabilities needed for the Surface Imaging, Structure Scanning, and Digital Storehouse projects. Some of the technologies are still in the laboratory and will require additional research so the technology can be taken from the laboratory to the field. Other capabilities are already mature, but need to be integrated into the new system architecture. Some of the parameters affecting the planning of the field testing and demonstrations are already being evaluated.

Besides the introductory information provided on the web page, supporting documentation for presentations and proposals is being prepared.

 

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