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4 applications of AI in architectural conservation

AI architecture and conservation: 4 possible applications

The combination between AI architecture and conservation helps preserve cultural heritage. Find out how with 4 interesting use cases!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly indispensable in the recovery, restoration and conservation of the existing building heritage, offering innovative strategies for the assessment of degradation, risk management and other applications that we will discover together in this article.

Before delving into the topic, you need to know that AI can only be effectively implemented in the context of architecture and conservation from a Heritage Building Information Model (HBIM). This is a 3D digital representation of the work, extremely rich in information, which aims to faithfully return the characteristics of the building in terms of geometry materials, architecture, and so on.

Making the HBIM model out of a building of historical interest is really simple… If you use the right tool!

My advice is to rely on a powerful and professional HBIM software for the recovery of historic buildings  that is easy and intuitive at the same time. You can model a structure in just a few steps starting from a point cloud survey or from drawings in any format (DXF, DWG, etc.).


model created with Edificius

Model created with Edificius

What is architectural conservation?

Architectural conservation refers to the process aimed at protecting the tangible cultural heritage and, in particular, the buildings and constructions of the past. The aim is to preserve the  historical evidence they provide and transmit its value to future generations.

The practice of conservation can be quite controversial, as there are two different schools of thought:

  • those who aim at preserving all the original materials and architectural characteristics of a work
  • those who state that conservation interventions should not be too restrictive.

In general, the conservation of cultural heritage can be ensured through a coherent, coordinated and planned study, prevention, maintenance and restoration activity, which aims to:

  • limit the risk situations related to the cultural asset in its context;
  • control and maintain over time the identity, physical conditions and functional efficiency of the asset and all its parts;
  • recover, when necessary, the material integrity and cultural values of the asset itself.

To successfully achieve the goals of architectural conservation, the winning solution could be to be helped by innovative tools and technologies, based on the integration between Artificial Intelligence and HBIM.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) represents the ability of a machine or computer system to imitate the cognitive and behavioral functions which are typical of a human being, such as reasoning, learning, planning and creativity.

Artificial intelligence systems are able, for example, to relate to the surrounding environment, interpret perceived reality, solve problems of a complex nature and act towards the achievement of a specific objective.

Common examples of intelligent systems, with which we interact on a daily basis, include virtual assistants, search engines, translators, navigators, and so on.

AI can also be incorporated into more sophisticated systems, such as robots, IoT devices, drones and self-driving vehicles, which have the ability to replace humans in carrying out tedious and repetitive activities, or particularly complex, risky or dangerous tasks.

Artificial intelligence technology is already bringing many advantages in several sectors, including civil engineering where it is used to improve the design, construction and management processes of AEC works (learn more by reading the article concerning AI in civil engineering).

Below we can discover the potential applications of AI in the field of architecture, restoration and conservation.

How AI will influence architectural conservation

The introduction of AI in architectural conservation processes is gradually paving the way for new and encouraging forms of knowledge, protection and enhancement of existing building heritage.

This is demonstrated by the numerous research projects recently launched for the development of innovative methodologies aimed at the conservation of cultural heritage, which involve the combination of artificial intelligence techniques (such as machine learning and computer vision) with technological solutions such as drones, robots, 3D scanners, etc.

The implementation of AI in the field of architecture and conservation can be directed towards the achievement of different objectives. Among the most important and promising use cases for the future we can find the following applications:

  • detection and mapping of inaccessible points: drones equipped with intelligent sensors allow you to reach the most inaccessible parts of a building and make aerial shots and 3D point cloud acquisitions, to be imported into the modeling software for the construction of HBIM models. Artificial intelligence also allows some systems to analyze the data and images collected to assess the state of degradation of the asset and automatically identify the areas in need of intervention or restoration;
  • diagnostics and monitoring: starting from an HBIM model, it is possible to develop an intelligent system capable of communicating with the building in real time, with the aim of monitoring the state of health of the product and proposing adequate solutions for its correct management and conservation. The intelligent sensors positioned in the strategic points of the building allow to keep under control all significant parameters (physical, structural, environmental, functional, etc.) and to implement intervention strategies aimed at solving specific problems;
  • reconstitution of fragmented artefacts: AI technology can be exploited for the reconstruction of ancient artefacts. Thanks to the use of intelligent robots, it is possible to process, combine and physically assemble, in a short time, fragmented finds that are difficult for a human being to reconstitute. Recently, an experiment was conducted in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, in which a robotic infrastructure was developed combining 3D scanning technologies and machine learning and computer vision techniques, aimed at the restoration and recomposition of the ceiling frescoes of the “House of the Painters at Work” and the “Schola Armaturarum”;
  • preventive conservation: artificial intelligence allows to develop predictive models that are able to identify risk and vulnerability factors for buildings of historical interest (but also for the most recent constructions), based on multi-scenario studies that evaluate environmental risks, climate change, the level of use of the artifacts, structural aspects, and so on. These models make it possible to improve decision-making processes and minimise the loss of goods of historical and artistic interest. Their purpose is, in fact, to manage the risks, vulnerability and functional life of buildings, contributing to the conservation of the built cultural heritage and helping interested parties to make more informed decisions.

If you work in the field of architectural conservation and are in search of a simple and intuitive tool to build the digital model of a building, rely on an HBIM software for the recovery of historical heritage. With this powerful tool you can model the building directly from the 3D point cloud or drawings in any format, obtaining a realistic and reliable representation of the state of the structure.