APPROACHES AND INSTRUMENTS
Information management systems
Developing and setting-up an appropriate information management system will provide the basis for documenting and assessing the damage of historic buildings and monuments.
The technical solution can be a database application with the functionality for processing different types of information and media like texts, numbers, maps, photos and videos or a fully-fledged Geographical Information System (GIS) with the ability to geo-reference relevant spatial data.
The basis for documenting and assessing the damage to historic buildings and monuments is established by developing and setting up an appropriate information management system.
There are two main technical solutions available for this purpose:
- database applications capable of processing diverse information and media, such as text, numerical data, maps, photos and videos, possibly in combination with geo-referencing to open source maps;
- fully-fledged professional geographical information systems (GIS).
A key challenge when developing a functional system is to define the information needs, based on a clear understanding of the way in which the damage assessment is to be used. Given that analysing and documenting the damage to individual buildings can be a time-consuming and costly exercise, consideration has to be given to both the need for reliable and detailed data and the effort required to collect, compile and process the information.
To set up, operate and use an information management system in the context of damage assessment, qualified professionals with experience in the following key areas will be needed:
- development and operation of information management systems;
- architecture and civil engineering, with special expertise in assessing structural damage to buildings;
- art and building history, with special expertise in restoration works;
- organisation of social media campaigns.
Training and capacity building programmes may be needed if professionals with the relevant skills are not available.
Social media and crowd sourcing
In view of the challenges that arise when documenting damage to a large number of historic buildings and monuments, much of the information needed for assessment purposes can be collected with the help of social media and crowdsourcing.
As already indicated, property owners, residents and businesspeople can be an important source of information for detailed assessments. Other citizens as well, especially young people, can be mobilised to contribute to such assessments through social media and crowdsourcing.
In particular if access to locations is ruled out by political, security or safety restrictions, crowdsourcing and social media can be the only tools available for collecting the information needed to initiate a detailed assessment of the damage to key historic monuments.
Crowdsourcing for damage assessment purposes has so far been applied mainly for mapping the damage caused by natural disasters. The experience accumulated on such occasions can be harnessed, however, and applied to the specific requirements of assessing war damage in post-conflict situations.
Detailed building surveys on the ground
In order to produce an accurate and technically sound assessment of damage, especially for the purposes of planning and implementing repair and restoration measures, detailed surveys have to be performed on the ground.
In most cases this entails a measured survey of a building and its main historical features, such as walls, roofs, beams, columns, doors, windows, gates, woodwork, decoration, etc..
Such surveys can be significantly facilitated by modern tools, such as reflectorless electromagnetic distance measurement (EDM) technology or advanced laser scanners, which can be used to produce accurate floor plans, elevations and even 3D models of a damaged historic monument. The quality and accuracy of the data depend largely on the skill and experience of the operator, but also on the processing software and any other equipment used.
Notwithstanding such aids, human expertise is essential when structural damage is being assessed and consideration is being given to the options and need for repair and restoration.
Further information on measured building surveys