Case Studies

BIM Academy – Durham Cathedral


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 5

From BIM Journal here.

With the estates team at Durham Cathedral seeking to apply digital solutions to improve the curation and management of this 900-year-old World Heritage Site, here is Graham Kelly (BIM Academy) to tell us just how well BIM can work in a historical setting.


Previously, the FM team placed their reliance on architectural drawings that dated from the last century as a base for their decision making and assessment of condition of the fabric of the building. These were frequently inaccurate and often misplaced. Also the traditional restoration processes for the building was very labour-intensive and costly, and therefore became impacted by budget constraints. This was not helped by architects and contractors having to be paid to make bespoke studies due to limited access to files. Furthermore, traditional surveying methods were often too intrusive for the sensitive nature of the building.

To investigate the possibilities of a digital solution, the Chapter House was chosen as a pilot project to demonstrate the benefits of the BIM processes as applied to the existing buildings. This saw the historic structure turned into a 3D digital model to support the improved management of this well visited facility.

The project demonstrated how digital building technology can improve the efficiency in management and operations of buildings, through the transition from traditional FM procedures to the utilisation of digital information and 3D models to deliver greater value to heritage buildings.

Indeed BIM was investigated as a methodology to achieve efficiencies, by supporting the transition facility management procedures to a process that utilizes digital information and 3D models to deliver greater value.

To capture as-built conditions of the Chapter House, 3D laser scanning was used to produce geometric models, known as point clouds. The point cloud was then imported into authoring software to create the 3D model, which was populated with parametric data resulting in a data-rich ‘intelligent’ model. This included condition information of the structure and traditional outputs, such as elevations, sections, and floor plans.


The model allowed the creation of condition surveys to interlink with the history of each element; maintenance schedules; accurate stone surveying; visual walkthroughs for virtual tours; scaffolding simulation for refurbishment planning; scenario planning (planning an exhibition inside a room); with field tools that utilise mobile technology being available to explore and update the model on site.

Following the creation of the model, it became apparent to the client that it was necessary for all relevant team members engage and support its use. This strong commitment is required to overcome the significant cultural challenges as well as the technical and procedure shift required for BIM workflow. Appropriate training and support schemes were put in place to facilitate the transition.

To escalate BIM adoption in the future it was agreed that a solid business case, based on the advantages from this pilot project, needed to be presented in order to demonstrate the efficiencies of improved facilities whilst justifying the improved upfront costs.

Read BIM Journal here.