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Infrastructure protectionRehabilitating historical structures using laser scanning technology

Published 16 October 2012

The Carmel Mission Basilica in California is undergoing a restoration using cutting-edge laser scanning technology; earlier this year, engineers the from Blach Construction Company  teamed up with CyArk, a non-profit foundation that digitally preserves historical sites, to shoot laser beams at and within the basilica to create precise digital maps of the building from different angles

The Carmel Mission Basilica in California is undergoing a restoration using cutting-edge laser scanning technology.

Earlier this year, engineers the from Blach Construction Company  teamed up with CyArk, a non-profit foundation that digitally preserves historical sites, to shoot laser beams at and within the basilica to create precise digital maps of the building from different angles.

The Monterey Bay Herald reports that billions of measurements were taken by the lasers in order to create 3-D blueprints in the interior and exterior of the Basilica. The blueprint has been used to plan and guide important decisions about the restoration process of the building, with the roof being the most important.

There’s no way for the structural steel contractor to get in there,” Gino Cecchetto, manager of building information modeling services at Blach told the Herald. “They would have had to have waited until the roof was opened up to measure the beams in the attic.”

In the original design of the basilica, the wood beams on the roof and in the attic were cut by hand, so they all have slightly different sizes, which means that the pieces that are replacing the original have to all be custom made in order to ensure an exact fit, which can mean a lot of time and money. According to Cecchetto, the 3-D scans will shave weeks off the schedule and when the beams are replaced they know for a fact they will fit.

It really limits the amount of time that roof needs to be open,” Ceccheto told the Herald.

The mapping technology being used at the basilica was developed by CyArk’s founder, Ben Kacyra, as a portable tool to make accurate renderings of archaeological and historical sites. Kacyra was inspired to find a way to produce accurate rendering to historical sites after the destruction of Buddhist statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. CyArk has deployed the tool all over the world in an effort to digitally preserve dozens of well-known historical sites which include Mount Rushmore, the ancient roman city of Pompeii and the dwellings of the Anasazi people of the Mesa Verde region of Colorado.

Elizabeth Lee, the director of operations at CyArk, said if the landmarks they scan are damaged in the future, “we have great documentation to both reconstruct these sites, and so people in the future can experience the sites as they are today.”

Cyark originally approached the Carmel Mission Foundation about using their technology as part of its effort digitally to preserved 500 world heritage sites, which include the twenty-one missions of the El Camino Real or “royal road” that were built between the seventeenthand nineteenthcenturies.

After CyArks team of engineers scans all of the structures in the Carmel Mission complex, the 3-D renderings will be available to the public online through the Carmel Mission Foundations Web site.

Victor Grabrian president and CEO of the Carmel Mission Foundation, told the Herald that anyone in the world will be able to see a virtual version of the basilica, other mission structures and artifacts, extending the preservation of the mission for future generations.