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French officials embrace BIM, other contech in Notre Dame reconstruction project

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Dive Brief:

  • What’s old will be made new again at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with the help of some modern construction technology from San Rafael, California-based building software design firm Autodesk.
  • Autodesk has become an official member of the patronage established to restore the 12th-century cathedral that was devastated by a massive fire, believed to have started in an attic, in 2019. Its iconic spire collapsed, as did its lead roof after the massive oak beams supporting it burned. 
  • Autodesk will contribute design and construction solutions, including BIM support and technical expertise. “We are humbled to participate in the restoration and future preservation of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a truly magnificent architectural wonder of the world,” said Nicolas Mangon, Autodesk vice president of business strategy for architecture, engineering and construction design solutions, in a statement.

Dive Insight:

Since the fire two years ago, Autodesk has provided funding and technology to support the effort through the French Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation). The use of BIM (as shown in the rendering above) will help create a historical digital record for increased resiliency for future events and restoration, the company noted.

Data created using reality capture technologies prior to the fire allowed Autodesk to create a 3D BIM model of the Notre-Dame Cathedral as it existed before the catastrophic event. Autodesk then used recent reality capture scans to create 3D models post-fire for comparison. 

Reconstruction at the cathedral began just a few months after the fire, and has continued since, with just a three-month-long pause during the pandemic, according to Architectural Digest. The initial safety phase involved building scaffolding around the structure and reinforcing the flying buttresses that support the massive stone walls.

As of this month, all burned timbers have been removed, according to AD, and while there is still a hole in the roof, a replica of Notre Dame’s spire is being built with more than 1,000 donated oak trees from all over France. The current goal is to finish enough of the reconstruction to allow visitors to the church during the 2024 Summer Olympics. 

By embracing the digital approach, the Fondation du Patrimoine is enabling cloud collaboration among stakeholders, Autodesk noted. A common data environment will serve as a central repository for all project information, project stakeholders will have access to the latest data and plans.

“Using digital technologies designed for the supervision and management of the restoration site is essential for the public institution,” said French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who’s charged with overseeing the reconstruction project. “Thanks to Autodesk’s patronage, the use of cutting-edge design and construction technologies and BIM are being leveraged to help prepare for the reopening of the cathedral, and to once again welcome both pilgrims and visitors.”

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