• With the help of Autodesk technology, AIA’s 2024 Architecture Firm Award winner, Quinn Evans, was able to modernize the Michigan State Capitol while retaining key historic elements.
  • Architects and builders use laser scanners to create detailed digital models of historic buildings to retain critical information on the design, helping preserve these sites in the face of natural disasters or decay and deterioration.
  • With scan-to-BIM methods and digital twins, architects and historians can accurately document the past and build better futures for these landmarks.

First completed in 1878, the Michigan State Capitol has been modernized with the help of Autodesk technology.

Technology has always played a pivotal role in the world of historic preservation. This National Preservation Month, Autodesk is spotlighting how some of our customers are leveraging the latest in laser scanning, reality-capture, Building Information Modeling (BIM), and digital twin technologies to preserve cherished historic sites around the world.

The scan-to-BIM process involves taking visual and spatial information from a building or site and translating it into a valuable BIM model in a fraction of the time compared to traditional manual measurements. With the help of a laser scanner affixed to a stationary tripod or attached to a drone, architects, engineers, and historians can collect an immense amount of data on the geometry, design, and details of a site—all important elements needed for documentation and future restoration or rebuilding efforts.

AIA’s 2024 Architecture Firm Award winner, Quinn Evans, is highly familiar with the benefits of scan-to-BIM for historic preservation. Using Autodesk Revit, Autodesk ReCap Pro, and Autodesk Construction Cloud, Quinn Evans built a historic building information management (HBIM) model that enabled a massive infrastructure modernization project at the Michigan State Capitol that preserved the building’s Victorian character while delivering important improvements to the building’s overall function. As a National Historic Landmark and the center of government for the state, retaining cultural heritage was just as necessary to the project as was operational excellence.

“The importance of HBIM is leveraging that connection between the building and the amount of fragmented data our clients already have at their disposal. We make sure that the data is organized in a manner that can actually be useful to them because, speaking specifically for our heritage projects, we have buildings that have not only decades worth of instrumental information, but centuries,” said Charles Thompson, associate at Quinn Evans.

According to Rob Fink, senior associate and design technology director at Quinn Evans, these methods help the firm “revitalize places by listening to the community and applying our technical expertise.”

Autodesk Tandem software allows Quinn Evans to create a digital replica of the Capitol to better track physical assets and operational activity.

First completed in 1878, the building faced calls for demolition later in its lifetime as it was deemed “obsolete.” Over the course of three decades, Quinn Evans has fully restored the building’s exterior and the interior of the Governor’s Wing and added an underground visitor center—all of which have allowed the Capitol to continue to serve as a seat of government while welcoming over 100,000 annual visitors.

Quinn Evans has also extended scan-to-BIM processes further by incorporating a digital twin solution into their workflows. Using Autodesk Tandem, the firm built an evolving digital replica of the capitol that allows them to gain insight into the state of operational assets like mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems and review more granular details like the design of a fireplace. The digital twin will help them better identify and mitigate water leaks, so that building staff can reduce the damage to walls and paint associated with repairs. Over time, the digital twin will also serve as a valuable record of both design and performance, for use by preservationists, historians, and building staff.

Learn more about how Autodesk customers are leveraging digital twins

Notably, scan-to-BIM techniques also enabled the digital modeling of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral. The technology was provided for free to the public institution and to construction companies in charge of the restoration of the cathedral following extensive fire damage in 2019. With over 46,000 images of the structure collected, the resulting model is truly an unrivaled example of historical modeling using BIM technology. The cathedral’s reopening date is currently set for December 8, 2024. Similar examples can be found anywhere from Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where Autodesk worked with partner Case Technologies and the Perennial Project to digitally preserve Union Station for a potential second life, to Christchurch, New Zealand, where efforts to rebuild Christ Church Cathedral after a devastating earthquake relied heavily on in-depth 3D models.

In the face of natural disasters, climate risks, and ongoing building decay and deterioration, BIM models and digital twins allow architects and builders to retain and collect critical information on the design and make of historic buildings. By accurately documenting the past, we’re able to ensure a better future for these landmarks of our built environment.

Learn more about the latest Autodesk technologies at AIA Conference on Architecture & Design from June 5–8, 2024. Join us in the Expo, Booth #2009 for live demos of Autodesk Forma, Autodesk Workshop XR, Insight, and more.