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Preservation of Historical Buildings: The huge Potential of 3D Models

Historical buildings and monuments are not only testimonials of past eras, they are also valuable cultural treasures that need to be preserved. In today's digital world, 3D modeling offers a way to capture and preserve these structures. Historical buildings are contemporary witnesses and represent an important part of our history. Through 3D modeling, these buildings and therefore a piece of our past can be digitally conserved, making them accessible to future generations without limitations. In the following article, we will explore the various ways in which 3D models of historical and protected buildings can be beneficial.

The beneficiaries of 3D models

In common, 3D models are used for the analysis of buildings in renovations, remodeling and for the implementation of BIM or CAFM. We have summarized good reasons for the use of scan-to-BIM in a previous article. The added value that 3D modeling of protected and historical buildings provides is even more specific and has been gaining increasing significance, especially since April 15, 2019. Modern 3D modeling, using laser scanning and high-resolution photographs, allows for the digital capture of complex historical buildings in exceptional quality, making them usable for a variety of stakeholders: Owners such as individuals, municipalities, cultural institutions or religious organizations and subsequently architects, engineers and restorers; building management, as well as heritage authorities, historians, and even tourism or marketing can benefit from high-quality 3D models.

This speaks in favor of a 3D model of a historical and protected building

The major advantage for the owner lies in maintenance. Old buildings need to be well-maintained and closely monitored so that renovations can be initiated in time. This is especially valuable in terms of safety within a structure. Furthermore, 3D building models serve as a type of database that can support damage assessment and repair in the event of natural disasters, fires, or similar incidents, helping to restore the condition of the building to its pre-incident state as much as possible.

Case Study

Notre Dame de Paris

Do you remember the fire at Notre Dame de Paris on April 15, 2019? Thanks to the measurement data obtained from the laser scanner, fortunately taken before the fire, a 3D BIM model could be created as the basis for reconstruction (with the planned completion in January of the following year). Ubisoft, the developers of Assassin's Creed Unity, created a highly detailed 3D reconstructions of 18th-century Paris in 2014 and were ready to provide their 3D model of the cathedral, which took them 14(!) months to complete. This model proved to be a valuable tool. The moral of the story? If a 3D model had already existed at the time of the fire, the construction time could have been significantly reduced.

What was the 3D model specifically used for?

Initially, the 3D model was used for damage assessment. An additional, a 3D model of the cathedral was created after the fire. These two models were then compared to identify and evaluate deformations originating from within the masonry. This didn‘t only helped in making decisions regarding the subsequent steps crucial for the structural restoration, it also aided in implementing safety measures during the renovation. Deformations that were often not visible to the naked eye but posed significant risks to the structural integrity of the building could be identified and addressed. Furthermore, the 3D model enabled virtual experiments and simulations to test various restoration options. This was particularly important for the restorers to visualize the impacts of different decisions before implementing them in reality.

Further benefits of 3D models from historical buildings

Heritage buildings

When a building is subject to renovation or restoration and under a preservation order, 3D models provide significant support in the collaboration between architects and the authorities. Firstly, the original condition of the building is well-documented, and secondly, the heritage authorities can provide precise information about areas that are protected and those that are not. This improves communication between the parties involved and strengthens the focus on essential aspects.


Historical buildings often serve as venues for events and exhibitions or are utilized for such purposes. Think of museums, castles and similar attractions. In addition to assisting facility management, architects and engineers in renovation projects, these building models can be used for virtual tours, interactive exhibitions or immersive experiences. They bring people closer to the spaces and architecture from the comfort of their homes and prepare them for the real-life experience.


Modeling historical buildings is not comparable to modeling contemporary buildings. It requires a high level of expertise, experience, and precision because the architecture of past centuries is often complex and intricate. Complicating matters further is the fact that construction methods and time periods were different then compared to today. Additionally, there is often limited data available for reference.

Preserving a Piece of History

These challenges and peculiarities, however, have their allure: modeling historical and heritage buildings allows us to preserve and explore the treasures of our past. Through precise and detailed models, we can better understand and experience the architecture of early eras. The close collaboration of experts from various disciplines is key to creating an authentic and accurate 3D model. The future of 3D modeling of historical buildings promises to immerse us even deeper into history and enables us to preserve the beauty of these structures for future generations.

Are you interested in the topic of 3D modeling (BIM) and want to learn more about it or do you have specific questions? We would be happy to have a conversation about it.

Michael Danklmaier

Miviso Co-Founder

Tel.: +43 664 4563309


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