Notre Dame – Using 21st Century Technology to Restore an 850-Year-Old Cathedral

In April 2019, news of the devastating fire ravaging the Notre Dame Cathedral spread around the world. Audiences watched in disbelief as flames consumed Paris’ most iconic symbol of architectural beauty and history. In mere hours, the fire had destroyed much of the wooden roof covering the nave along with the cathedral’s spire.

Modern Construction Technologies Will Help Restore the Cathedral.

While the sight was saddening, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. France immediately vowed to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral. Donations of more than $1 billion dollars have already been pledged toward the effort. Rebuilding this landmark structure to mirror its previous image is a daunting task, but those of us in the construction industry are certain it can be accomplished.

While the damages to Notre Dame were severe, we at Cleveland Construction are confident new technologies will prove effective in restoring this famous building to its former glory. Specifically, the combination of 3D laser scanning and Building Information Modeling (BIM) applications will help immensely.

What is 3D Laser Scanning?

Laser scanning involves a three-step process. First, a 3D scanner rapidly measures and saves the images of millions of points. Once measured, these points resemble a “cloud” that forms a 3D point model of the scanned area. The second step involves registering the uploading and stitching together the individual points into one composite 3D model. Thirdly, detailing the 3D model involves the use of software to change the scanned information into data-rich BIM components that can be manipulated in a numerous ways to guide construction documentation, fabrication, erection, and installation.

How Is 3D Laser Scanning Used in Construction Today?

Today, construction routinely uses 3D laser scanning for restoration projects, remodels, and new builds. In the field of historic restoration, 3D scanning can record model images of existing building elements before construction begins to help preserve the original appearance. Critical to historic restoration, 3D scans record spatial and physical information about a building that can help architectural conservationists pinpoint issues and find solutions. The scans can be used in conjunction with digital film and video to build a complete representation of a structure. In new construction, 3D site models assist the design and construction process by helping plan the details of a structure.

How Will 3D Laser Scanning Help Restore Notre Dame?

Fortunately for the Notre Dame Cathedral, architectural historian Andrew Tallon used a 3D laser scanner to map the entire structure in 2015, thereby creating a precise image of the building in digital format. This detailed scan will be used to provide the foundation of the entire rebuilding and restoration project.