Digitising historic structures

Our researchers are developing innovative digital technologies which could transform how historic buildings are managed, maintained and repaired.

Scotland has approximately 500,000 pre-1919 masonry buildings, which include homes, workplaces and visitor attractions. These buildings are increasingly under strain, in part due to more extreme and unpredictable weather caused by climate change.

Traditionally, surveyors have carried out condition surveys of buildings through visual inspection. However, these visual approaches are time-consuming and often result in incorrect labelling, misdiagnosis and omission of defects.

These errors are due to surveyors differing in how they report, linked to their experience – or sometimes inexperience – and the short time available for completing surveys.

Providing accurate surveys is vitally important, however, as incorrect identification and diagnosis of defects can result in inappropriate interventions that ultimately undermine the fundamental conservation objectives they mean to support.

Our researchers are working on advanced technologies to transform the surveying, repair and maintenance of buildings including:

  • Data capture: Digital methods to accurately and comprehensively document the condition of buildings, including through 3D modelling
  • Data processing: Applying innovative data processing tools such as machine learning (ML) algorithms, to analyse and understand the data, so that defects can be detected more easily
  • Information management and visualization: Effectively understanding, structuring and communicating the data and information, so that it can be translated into improved building maintenance and preservation activities


This work is being carried out by CyberBuild, a research laboratory based in the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. CyberBuild delivers digital engineering solutions for the architectural engineering and construction (AEC) and facilities management (FM) sectors.

In collaboration with various academic and industry partners, we research and develop technologies that deliver more efficient and effective design, construction and management of built environment assets.

Cyberbuild logo on orange and grey background