The modular building which will house Wrekin midwife-led unit has been lifted into place at Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.

Wrekin midwife-led unit will move into the modular building when work is completed

Wrekin midwife-led unit will move into the new facility, next to the current consultant-led unit at PRH, in the New Year.


Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 2)


The area freed up by the move will be used to create a ward which will cater for acute medical patients, creating more space at PRH over the winter period. The relocated maternity unit will include a birthing pool and en-suite bathrooms.

It has been designed with the leadership team from the women and children’s care group.

The new unit is being provided by a specialist company that has worked with NHS organisations across the country, including the Royal Derby and Milton Keynes University hospitals.

The modular building was installed at the weekend, with a large crane being brought onto the PRH site to lift the components into place.

Wrekin midwife-led-unit (MLU) is 30-years-old.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, says the new facility will be much more appealing to mums wanting a midwife-led birthing experience, while giving women the reassurance of being closer to the consultant-led unit.

The moves have been made possible after £4 million of capital funding was secured from the Department of Health.

Paula Clark, chief executive at SaTH, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding to improve facilities for mums using our MLU in Telford and to increase our bed space for the winter.

“I know that, to some people, the term ‘modular building’ conjures up images of the old demountable classrooms we had at school, but these modern facilities are about as far removed from that as you can imagine.

“They are purpose-built with state-of-the-art facilities and look fantastic.”


Source: Shropshire Star


Peder Vejsig Pedersen from European Green Cities focuses on Building Integrated Photovoltaics technologies in Denmark


This article presents results in connection with RTD work supported by the Danish EUDP programme and Nordic Innovation funding. Since 2014, there has been ongoing cooperation taking place with the companies Cenergia and Solarplan and Danish manufacturers and suppliers of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) technologies to develop new electricity-producing active roofs and facades, where BIPV can be a real alternative to normal roof and facade materials.

Here, completely new and innovative coloured BIPV solutions have made it possible to present roof and facade designs which can be accepted by architects, builders and the general public.

Since 2018, it has been possible to realise a new BIPV Demosite at The Technological Institute in Tåstrup west of Copenhagen, where you can see more than 20 different BIPV solutions in practice. This is an initiative coordinated by architect maa. Klaus Boyer Rasmussen from Solarplan.

At the same time, there has been cooperation with Solar City Denmark and European Green Cities/FBBB, on dissemination work in the form of brochures and thematic magazines.

When it comes to new and innovative BIPV solutions, it is especially relevant to highlight the Danish Solar Energy company, with its HEM-CFR BIPV modules that are produced in 11 different colours and come with a 25-year yield warranty. The coloured BIPV modules have an efficiency which is 85-95% of normal non-coloured PV modules.

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)

At the BIPV Demosite, you can see a BIPV roof solution in the same colour as red tile roofs and a facade design with two light grey BIPV modules placed between two Rockpanel-antrasit facade panels.

Another unique technology comes from the Danish company SolarLab, which delivered 12,000 chromatic blueish BIPV modules for the Copenhagen International School. The BIPV Demosite demonstrates tilted BIPV modules for facades or gables.

It should also be mentioned here that the Danish company Solartag can deliver BIPV modules that exactly matches roof or facade modules from the Norwegian company STENI.

The company VELUX also has an interesting BIPV solution presented at the BIPV Demosite. It is the VELUX Modular Skylight roofing system, that can be purchased with integrated monocrystalline PV modules.


Source: Open Access Government

What construction tech trends should you keep an eye on in 2020? These 7 might be the most exciting.

What are the current trends in the building market?

We’ll expand on a few of these later in the article, but according to sites like ESUB, here are some of the most notable tech trends in the construction industry at the moment: –


Technology Advancements and Integration.

Green Technology in Construction.

Increase in Modular and prefabricated Construction Projects.

Increasing Material Cost.

Decreased Labor Force.

Better Safety Equipment.



What technology is used in construction?

Despite the construction industry’s traditional resistance to new technologies, some are making significant strides in rounds. Notable examples include, but are not limited to:


Mobile Technology.


Building Information Monitoring (BIM).

Virtual Reality and Wearables.

3D Printing.

Artificial Intelligence.


Here are 7 tech trends you might want to watch in 2020.


  1. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR)

These technologies are already making a huge impact on many industries around the world, and the construction industry is no exception. Buildings are becoming ever more complicated, and these technologies are helping architects and construction teams improve designs and detect design errors.

To date, architects and design teams greatly improve building design through interactive design and gesture interfacing. 2020 is set to see this technology’s influence on the industry expand even further.

This could range from errors in HVAC system design or finding missing elements that have been overlooked during the design phase. AR, VR, and MR are also being utilized in the construction industry to aid: –


3D modeling of buildings and structures.

Helping improve and innovate BIM visualization.

It helps provide a permanent record of the building and allows clients to explore designs before construction.

Helping “see through walls” for maintenance workers and service engineers.


  1. 3D printing


Another tech trend to watch out for in 2020 is the role of 3D printing in the construction industry. The benefits of it have already been explored and exploited by various construction companies around the world.

The ability to either prefabricate offsite or directly on-site has obvious labor and material cost benefits over more traditional building methods. It also reduces waste and being automated is not restricted by construction worker shift patterns.

“The concrete 3D printing market is expected to reach $56.4m in 2021, and with good reason. More and more companies are starting up in the sector to create new, innovative projects. Some are more futuristic, some are very real in the present, such as Apis Cor’s 3D printed house in 24 hours. 3D concrete printing is developing rapidly and relies on different technologies and materials, offering many benefits to its users. The tech is still in its infancy however and is bound by current limitations.” – 3D Natives.


  1. Robotics

2020 may also be the year where robotics makes a bigger impact in the construction industry. Somewhat linked to the impact of 3D printing above, robotics is also seeing impressive infiltration into the industry.

In fact, one report by the World Economic Forum predicted that 2020 could be the year of the robot in the construction industry.

From robotic bricklayers to laying roads, robots are increasingly finding their place amongst the workforce on construction sites. This is interesting as traditionally the construction industry has seen very little automation, relying largely on manual labor.

By adding robots to the workforce, construction companies are seeing improved construction times and improved quality of builds. Robots are also being used to help demolish buildings too.

While currently slower than human demolition crews, they are far safer and cheaper for bringing down concrete structures at the end of its life cycle.

Robots are also being developed to help with certain building maintenance like window cleaning.


  1. Sustainability

For several decades now, building regulations have been placing more and more burden on building design to reduce their environmental impact and sustainability. This is a trend that will only become more strict heading into 2020 and beyond.

Optimized energy efficiency and a drive for low to zero carbon emissions have driven innovation in building construction and service design for years. In response, new, better thermal performance materials are being developed that promise to make the buildings of the future incredibly well insulated for a fraction of the cost of current solutions.

One example from a few years ago was the development of a concrete roof that can generate and store energy. Innovations like this should make buildings of the future cheaper to live in and reduce their impact on the environment.

Reducing waste or recycling old materials is another area where sustainability is helping drive innovation in the construction industry. For example, last year one architecture firm announced its plans for a new method of recycling construction waste into ton new reusable building materials.

It will be interesting to see what new innovations will be realized in 2020.


  1. Modular and Prefabricated Construction


Modular and prefabricated solutions are nothing new to the construction industry. For example, the end of the Second World War saw something of a ‘Cambrian Explosion’ in prefab design in war-torn cities across the UK.

While it has fallen out of favor over the last few decades, prefabs have been making something of a comeback in recent years. The promise of faster on-site assembly and higher quality, standardized builds are seen by some as the solution to tackle perceived housing crises around the world.

“Advances in high-tech design and construction mean increasing numbers of components can be manufactured off-site. That means buildings can go up more quickly and quietly, with fewer materials wasted – an enticing prospect given London’s housing crisis.

To accommodate modular house-building, developers are building their own factories, and architects are getting ever more ambitious in their designs. Here are five of our favorite London modular housing designs.” – The Spaces.


  1. Exoskeletons

Another tech trend to watch in 2020 is the use of exoskeletons. The potential benefits this can afford to a construction site’s workforce are obvious.

Laborers can carry more load than their fragile human bodies would normally be able to cope with, and if it is widely adopted, it would largely increase the safety of construction sites. For construction companies, this will dramatically improve their bottom line by reducing the number of laborers needed on-site as well as reduce lost man-hours from injury.

“ABI Research predicts the robotic exoskeleton market alone will reach $1.8 billion in 2025, up from $68 million in 2014. This year, about 6,000 suits will be sold, mainly for rehabilitation. By 2025, ABI expects to see about 2.6 million on the market.” – Constructible.

But they may ultimately lose out to robots and 3D printing alternatives as exoskeletons still rely on a human operator at their heart. That being said, they might offer the perfect compromise between labor unions who will inevitably try to protect their member’s jobs from becoming obsolete.

But they are yet to significantly infiltrate the industry. Perhaps 2020 will be the year they make it?

Time will tell.


  1. Building information modeling


Building Information Modelling, or BIM for short, is a process of creating and managing information on a construction project from cradle to grave. This intelligent 3D model-based process has already seen wide adoption by architects, engineers, and other construction professionals.

In fact, many local authorities have made BIM the standard for many of its construction project needs. BIM allows stakeholders and suppliers to more efficiently plan, design construct and manage a building and its infrastructure.

As other technologies already mentioned, like AR, and VR, become more popular, their integration with BIM will become ever more important. This is unlikely to slow down in 2020 and beyond.



Source: Interesting Engineering


Landmark hosts pre-election webinar: what the manifestos say about brownfield land, urban development and housing
Monday 9th December – 1PM-2PM

Landmark Information, the leading provider of information to the UK property market, is hosting a special pre-election webinar to compare the major political party manifestos regarding brownfield development, urban development and housing.

The webinar, which is being led by Chartered Geologist and SiLC Paul Nathanail, aims to prepare delegates for the challenges and opportunities the new Government will pose.  The webinar will take place on Monday 9th December at 1:00pm, and will compare all major political party manifestos to determine what the future of property development, redevelopment, planning and housing may look like, with a focus on brownfield land-related pledges.

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)

Paul, who is the Managing Director of Land Quality Management Ltd and also chairs his local Neighbourhood Forum, will also discuss what has changed in relation to Previously Developed Land (PDL) since the 2017 General Election.

Confirms Paul Nathanail: “The major political parties agree that we need to build more homes across the country but many local authorities are struggling to meet their housing targets over the next decade to ensure enough affordable houses are delivered. The Landmark webinar is an ideal opportunity to fully understand what each manifesto means in terms of their commitment to brownfield development.”

Adds Chris Loaring, Managing Director (Legal), Landmark Information: “By hosting the free webinar, we’re providing a plain-speaking, clear interpretation of all political party’s plans with regards to brownfield redevelopment. Brownfield sites will play a big part of the changing urban landscape, to reflect societal needs, and so it’s important to understand policies for the next five years and beyond.”

To register for the webinar, visit   Or for further information on Landmark Information, visit

Altro has been appointed as a recommended supplier of vinyl and resin floors and floor accessories on the Department of Health’s ProCure22 Framework for NHS and social care construction schemes in England. Altro floor systems, including Altro Orchestra, Altro Aquarius and Altro Wood Safety, are recommended for use throughout healthcare environments. This follows Altro’s appointment in 2018 as a recommended supplier of wall and door systems, including the Altro Whiterock and Altro Fortis systems.

The ProCure22 (P22) process is designed to achieve improved value for money and reduce exposure to risk through a simplified capital procurement procedure.

With up to 20-year product guarantees, Altro can ensure healthcare environments provide an impervious, hygienic and durable environment, meeting the stringent requirements in critical hygiene areas. With a vast array of colours, including wood-look designs, a warm and welcoming environment can be created to reduce stress and improve patient and staff wellbeing, without compromising on hygiene standards.

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)

Altro provides a wide selection of floor solutions that can be used in all areas of health and care environments, including specialist safety solutions for areas with a high slip risk, including bathrooms and kitchens.

Altro has also been awarded DSDC accreditation, and is the only manufacturer to have HACCP approval for both floor and wall products.

Mark Johnstone, Head of Commercial, UK, Middle East and Ireland says: “Altro pioneered hygienic wall sheets and safety flooring, and we have over 60 years of experience providing solutions in health and care environments, including many projects within the NHS and social care. We are proud to have our floor and wall solutions included on the Procure22 Framework. Our floor, wall and door systems are recognised as cost-effective and durable solutions for health and care, and work together to create a hygienic environment that is designed to support the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.”

The following products are included in the P22 standard components list:

  • Altro Aquarius™
  • Altro Pisces™
  • Altro Suprema™
  • Altro Walkway™ 20
  • Altro XpressLay™
  • Altro Wood™ Safety
  • Altro Wood™ Safety Comfort
  • Altro Reliance™ 25
  • Altro Stronghold™ 30
  • Altro Zodiac™
  • Altro Cantata™
  • Altro Orchestra™
  • Altro Operetta™
  • Altro Serenade™
  • Altro Proof™
  • AltroFix™ 19 Plus
  • AltroFix™ 365
  • Altro adhesive-free flooring approved installation tape
  • Altro Acoustic Underlay 101
  • Altro Flexiflow™ 2mm classic standard variant
  • Altro Flexiflow™ 8mm acoustic standard variant
  • Altro Screed™ 3mm standard variant
  • Altro Crete™ 8mm standard variant
  • Altro Tect™ standard variant

This award is valid until October 2021.

The following products were included in the P22 standard components list in 2018:

  • Altro Whiterock White
  • Altro Whiterock Satins
  • Altro Whiterock Chameleon
  • Altro Whiterock wall designs
  • Altro Whiterock Splashbacks
  • Altro Fortis Titanium
  • Altro Fortis corner protection
  • Altro Basis
  • Altro Whiterock Digiclad
  • Altro Whiterock hygienic doorsets

This award is valid until October 2020.

In recent years, there have been major improvements to health and safety in the construction industry. However, the industry still accounts for a high percentage of fatal and major injuries.


Health and safety of staff and visitors is one of the most crucial factors on any construction project, but it can often be overlooked.


Matthew Goff, managing director at Thurston Group, believes that modular construction can help to improve health and safety onsite – he shares his top three health and safety benefits of using modular volumetric construction.


  1. Buildings are manufactured in a quality-controlled environment

Buildings on a traditional construction site pose many health and safety risks to workers, from falls from height to equipment accidents.


But with modular buildings, the majority of the manufacturing process is carried out offsite using specialist machinery in a quality-controlled factory environment, which in turn, reduces waste and increases quality control, leading to a lower environmental impact.


Modular units are then delivered to site pre-fitted with electrics, plumbing, heating, doors and windows and in some cases fixtures and fittings, therefore reducing the time spent onsite and accelerating the overall construction process. In addition, risks can be easily managed in one setting, resulting in enhanced health and safety on site.


  1. Reduction in waste

Modular buildings production ensure that materials are used more efficiently and accurately. On average, 67% less energy is required to produce a modular building and up to 50% less time is spent onsite when compared with traditional methods, resulting in up to 90% fewer vehicle movements around the project which in turn, reduces CO2 emissions.



The impact on the local environment is also reduced, as there is less noise, packaging and emissions. These matters will have been addressed and resolved in the factory, which allows for greater efficiencies in environmental control measures and materials.


In addition, when a modular building is built to comply with specific sustainability standards, such as BREEAM, buildings can use resources more efficiently and may see a reduction in energy consumption and operational costs.


Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)


  1. Offsite can provide safer working conditions

Modular construction provides safer working conditions. The factory-based conditions of offsite enable safety requirements to be more easily met and policed, which leads to better build quality through improved quality control procedures.


Not only is there a reduced risk of slips, trips and falls – particularly as work at height is reduced – but there is also a reduction in onsite activity, thus ensuring health and safety always remains a top priority from start to finish.


Furthermore, if necessary, factory operations can continue 24/7 with less risk of noise and disruption to workers. Work is also unaffected by the weather and other environmental delays, which could result in the project being turned around even quicker.


To find out more about Thurston Group, contact the team on 0333 577 0883 or visit


Read Anthony Kaye’s view on how the construction skill shortage is creating a salary war in the sector.

Recruiting top talent in the construction industry is tough at the best of times, but the shortage of skilled professionals is creating a counter-offer culture that can set key recruitment searches back months.

Property and Construction recruitment specialist Anthony Kaye, of Alderpoint Partners, has seen a surge in counter offers over the last 12 months, with one in three candidates reporting they are being offered an increase in salary from their current employers when they break the news they are moving to a new company.

He says: “Counter offers are one of the biggest barriers developers are facing in hiring people at the moment. It is a candidate-driven industry, and wages are being inflated across the board because developers are keen to keep talent and are willing to match, or even increase on offers.”

The roots of the problem are based in the exodus of talent after the 2007 recession. The construction industry was hit harder than most, with highly skilled surveyors, land managers, civil engineers and sales people leaving permanently to take up roles in different industries.

Compounding this is the lack of training in interview techniques and a failure to address the change into a candidate-short market. Kaye says: “We’ve found there is a big issue with hiring managers having no interview training, which has led to some of our clients asking us to help train their managers in this area and, in some cases, sit in on interviews.”

With a poor pipeline of graduates coming into the industry, coupled with a push to counter the housing shortage crisis in the UK, companies are more likely to try to retain quality employees. So, it’s not just about structuring the interview to ask the right questions, it is also knowing how to sell the new job by ensuring candidates see the positives in a career move.

Kaye explains that a good recruiter needs to help the client do the best sales job they can, by targeting candidates’ real motives and desires for their next role. He says: “During the interview and selection process with the candidates, before they get to the client, we delve deep to find out the key drivers that will turn the candidates head.

“It could be they want flexible working, or a company that will invest in their development and training. Whatever it is, we strongly advise hiring managers to tell recruiters they need to know this before the interview process begins, as it’s vital to help managers focus their sales pitch on what really motivates the candidate’s decision on whether to take the new role and, importantly, stick with that decision in the face of a counter offer.”

He also recommends that clients try to stay close to the candidate during their notice period. He says, “If possible, meet with the candidate and even order which laptop, phone, or car they want, to make them part of the company before they’ve started”.

“Their current employer will likely pull on a candidate’s heart strings to persuade them to stay. So it’s important that the hiring company build a strong relationship with the candidate to help reduce this feeling of guilt in leaving a long standing employer.”

In his experience, an offer of a salary increase can be a first move for current employers to induce candidates to stay, but there are some strong non-salary motivators to move into a new role.

Flexible working hours

The top question candidates ask is whether the role offers flexible working hours. They want to be given the responsibility of managing their own time and diary. It is more appealing to people to work a set number of hours over a week, but with the freedom for them to dictate those hours so they can pick their kids up on a Friday, or take a day off without giving too much notice.

Work-life balance

Gone are the days where people were willing to commute to remote industrial parks for a higher salary. It is now the companies with smart, high-quality offices in easier to reach locations, that are attracting key talent. Candidates are also looking for more inclusive working environments, where there are greater opportunities for networking and social events.

Another key issue is the attraction of modern management methods. Even with a salary increase, traditional office cultures with a dictatorial management style that are being passed over in favor of more professional environments where candidates feel their opinions are valued. In this area smaller developers can compete against larger companies where employees can feel like just another cog in the machine.

Career progression

There may not be a promotion opportunity for candidates in their current company, so this is often an important reason why they would reject a counter offer. However, promotion is not the only career motivator.

Cross-training and learning more about the development life-cycle of a business is a key incentive for candidates. Offering courses and seminars outside the candidate’s immediate skill set is something Anthony is seeing more of as a desirable addition to employment packages.

Additional benefits

Anthony advises to look beyond just the salary, as it’s not always the number one driver. On top of flexible working hours, he has seen an increase in packages that include family health insurance, more holiday time and flexible holidays, incentives at work, summer and winter balls, and gym memberships.

Whilst not all these are necessarily going to combat candidates taking a counter offer, Anthony’s experience shows that a counter offer is not always a long-term solution. For employers it may be cheaper than finding a replacement for key talent, but even if a candidate accepts a counter offer and stays with their current employer, statistics show that within six months they will be back on the market looking for a new job.

“The recruiter and the company need to make sure they highlight the original reasons for wanting to move when considering a counter offer,” says Anthony. “It’s easy for candidates to say they aren’t motivated by money until they get offered another 10K to stay where they are. Usually there are serious underlying reasons for considering a move.”


Source: Showhouse

MTX are pleased to announce that we have won the Building Better Healthcare Award for Best Modular/Mobile Healthcare Facility for our orthopaedic operating theatre, delivered to Guy’s Hospital London.


Working collaboratively with Johnson & Johnson Managed Service, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, early engagement allowed us to demonstrate value, safety, speed and efficiency benefits for a hybrid modular based approach to the new theatre suite.

Through use of BIM visualisations and closely engaging with the stakeholders, including patients, staff and FM team, a fit for purpose and functional modular design was developed.


The offsite pre-fabricated units provided 850m² of new space over 2 storeys, with seamless access into the existing hospital at theatre suite level, blending current department activity and new operating facilities across different buildings and functions. Due to the offsite factor, the onsite activities were minimised which significantly reduced disruption to the hospital. This in turn decreased onsite trades, vehicle movements and waste, subsequently lessening the impact our activities have on the environment.


Due to the busy and congested streets of London and the 24 hour nature of the hospital, the modular lift had to take place out of normal working hours. This was programmed over a single weekend and the entire building was installed through a 48 hour continuous shift, minimising impact on operations and neighbours as well as reducing risks and accelerating programme.


The Building Better Healthcare judges spoke highly of the entry, paying particular praise to the time sensitive element of the delivery.

They said; ‘4.5 million people are on NHS waiting lists and there is not a hope of dealing with them as we do not have enough anaesthetists or capacity so something like this can help address that and is a very exciting thing. It was a challenging site and they got it done very quickly. This meets a very real demand for sure.’


CLICK HERE and view the case study

Walkable cities reduce traffic congestion – an issue that causes around 3.3 million deaths and $121 billion in economic losses every year. But when architects are developing pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, they often rely on trial and error, intuition or specialized simulations that are hard to use and to incorporate into their designs.

Urbano, a free software launched Oct. 26 by Cornell researchers, employs data, metrics and an easy-to-use interface to help planners and architects add and assess walkability features in their designs as effectively as possible.

“We wanted to create something that would allow architects and urban designers to simulate their designs and get some feedback early in the process,” said Timur Dogan, assistant professor of architecture and lead developer of Urbano. “This lets them make decisions based on facts and data, so they can create the sustainable and livable urban environments of the future.”

Since its launch, Urbano has been downloaded more than 400 times by universities and architecture firms around the world.


Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)


The team most recently presented a paper on Urbano in June 2018, at the Symposium on the Simulation for Architecture and Urban Design, and new research is forthcoming in TAD, the journal of Technology, Architecture and Design.

Urbano relies on three metrics to assess walkability: Streetscore, which calculates how streets are used for certain routes; Walkscore, a customizable measurement that rates whether popular amenities are within walking distance of homes and workplaces; and AmenityScore, which considers demographics to estimate the usefulness of various services.

“This is really helpful information for designers doing site analysis,” Dogan said, “because then they can see if there are certain services or amenities missing in neighborhoods, or others that are underutilized or overutilized.”

Assessing walkability early makes it more likely that pedestrian-friendly features will be incorporated, since shifting gears once the process is underway can be costly and complex. And while experienced architects will automatically consider walkability in their designs, Urbano provides simulations backed up by facts and data.

Currently, the research team is working on software that can assess energy use in models of cities, as well as a simulation tool, called Eddy3d, that considers data about urban microclimates. He hopes to eventually create a comprehensive toolkit for sustainable urban design.

The research was partly funded by Cornell’s Center for Transportation, Environment and Community Health, and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.



Scanning the left side of the Roman Theatre stage with a Faro X330. The two-level column facade was recreated from the remains found on the Volterra site. There were three groups of these two-level columns, part of the scaenae frons (Latin for “stage front”), which was a permanent stage backdrop typical in ancient Roman and Greek theaters.

Not many geospatial professionals enter the field thinking they will travel to Italy to document and digitize ancient sites. For many, it would be the ultimate adventure of combining history and technology—Indiana Jones without the boulders and snakes, and Star Trek without the intergalactic conflict. Three leaders in the Survey/Geospatial Practice of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) embarked on such an adventure to the town of Volterra as part of an international research team for two trips over the past three-year period.

Produced by Autodesk and Case Technologies, the humbly named “workshop” is executed through the Volterra-Detroit Foundation, which is a previously established relationship between the city of Volterra and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. The focus of the workshop was reality capture. New to most surveyors at firms, reality capture is enabled by photogrammetry, which is the use of   photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects. 3D models using photogrammetry can be combined with geographic information system (GIS) visuals such as land surface, roads, and rivers to create more complete georeferenced 3D digital models. These mapped sites can be viewed in a virtual environment.

Digital historical preservation of this kind is important to better document and monitor architectural treasures, especially as they deteriorate over time or are destroyed by natural disasters (earthquakes are not uncommon in Italy, and Volterra is particularly susceptible to landslides). By capturing data every few years, professionals can measure the shifting and deterioration that gradually occur over time. Historical preservation of this nature opens a window into history, ancient engineering and architecture, and archaeology for civilization to reference and enjoy for centuries to come, whether you’re a professional in the field or simply an interested member of the public.

Located approximately 50 miles southwest of Florence, the walled city of Volterra has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years, with historic sites dating back to the fourth century B.C. The historic significance of Volterra is top of mind for Mayor Marco Buselli as he has been actively pursuing a World Heritage site classification from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He knew that gathering data on and documenting the details of this village would likely support (and hopefully accelerate) the application process.


Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 6)



The First Adventure: Racing Against Time to Document and Digitize Volterra’s Ancient Roman and Etruscan Sites
The first workshop in this series was a nine-month endeavor that began in October 2016 with an international team of technicians, software experts, architects, engineers, and historians (a team of eight, representing two countries, U.S. and Canada), and included Rick Celender, CEC’s Corporate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program Leader, of the Pittsburgh office; Rob Sinclair, CEC’s Corporate CAD Technology Manager, also of the Pittsburgh office;
and Matt Bainbridge, a survey project manager in CEC’s Bridgeport office. The team was tasked with three assignments: create a digital, interactive 3D model of the city; create Building Information Models (BIMs) for historic buildings and architectural features; and create 3D models of ancient artworks and sculptures.

The primary equipment that Celender, Sinclair, and Bainbridge used for the data capture was a 3DR Drone with a GoPro and two Faro X330 LiDAR scanners.

Terrestrial Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) scanners were used inside historic buildings such as the the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the town hall, where the team captured millions of intelligent data points about everything from the intricate artwork on the ceilings to the tiniest of cracks in a pillar. The points were used to create detailed 3D models of the structures and their features, as well as a BIM, which becomes a useful tool for architects and planners should there ever be a need for maintenance, restoration, or retrofitting. The team also scanned objects in Volterra’s museums.

However, most of the team’s work was done outside.

LiDAR scanners were used to document and digitize Porta all’Arco, the oldest standing Etruscan arch in the world dating back to the fourth century B.C. and the main pedestrian access into Volterra (yes, still used today!).

LiDAR scanners were also used to document a Roman theatre, which alone required 120 individual scan locations to capture the site fully. Constructed in the first century B.C. and originally housing 3,500 spectators, it was excavated in the 1950s and sits just outside the city’s medieval wall.

After reviewing their data, the team found that this particular Roman theatre did not follow the archetypal Vitruvian architectural design that so many other theaters from that time period follow. Individual pieces of the marble decoration, found in various places and often in multiple pieces, were post-processed in 3D and then virtually restored to their original location in the 3D model. The complete catalog of the decoration fragments was developed in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologia in Florence. The 3D model of the reconstructed theater was rendered in 3DS MAX as well as processed in Revit® Live and Stingray software to create a virtual reality (VR) experience that can be accessed through tools such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung GearVR as well as through holographic displays.

A southward panorama of the Roman Theatre site. The theater was constructed in the first century B.C. and had a capacity of approximately 3,500 spectators.

In addition to these notable sites, the team scanned architectural details from around the city using high-resolution digital cameras (and even iPhones, which illustrates the advances of everyday technology) and then converted them to 3D models.Every evening, the team processed data captured during the day, taking the point clouds and creating a mesh, which turns the point cloud into a 3D model. With hundreds of scans to register and drone flights to process into point clouds, the team used multiple software programs and created a workflow akin to an assembly line. Data was collected from scanners and drones by one person and then distributed to two or three people to register. Additional team members would then process the data into 3D models.

“From there, we can take the mesh data and incorporate it into Autodesk® Civil ٣D® or Revit® to create an as-built model,” noted Sinclair. “We can truly recreate the space—put details in, tag it with data, etc. All the measurements of the BIM were based off the point cloud or mesh we created.”

“It was hectic but efficient,” Celender remarked.

After leaving Italy, the team continued the initial nine-month adventure analyzing and modeling the captured data. In June 2017, some team members from the workshop returned to Volterra with a few interactive models and 3D-printed replicas for a presentation in the town hall. The team treated Mayor Buselli, his staff, city residents, and representatives from UNESCO to a virtual reality (VR) demo that mimicked walking through Volterra’s historical sites, including a chance to experience the fully recreated Roman theatre in its original glory. The public was invited to experience the models throughout the following month.

The processing of data continued in the months that followed the workshop. The models of the museums’ artifacts began to be used in virtual exhibitions, for research, and for conservation efforts, with the option of being replicated using 3D printers for educational purposes.


The SECOND Adventure: The First Ancient European Amphitheater Discovered in 150 Years Teaches an Important Surveying Lesson

In April 2019, the workshop reunited for a second trip which lasted for two weeks. New construction in Volterra had inadvertently unearthed evidence of more ancient architecture. Incredibly, what was identified as the remains of an ancient Roman wall turned out to be the first ancient amphitheater discovery in Europe for the past 150 years.

This time around, the Workshop team was significantly expanded, consisting of 15 members from eight countries and included Sinclair and Bainbridge (Celender was unavailable due to other project commitments). The primary equipment employed included two UAVs: the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and the DJI Mavic Air; six pieces of LiDAR equipment: the Leica Pegasus Backpack, two Leica RTC360 scanners, two Leica BLK360 scanners, and a Faro X350 scanner; various cameras, including a Ricoh Theta 360 Camera and a Matterport camera; a Leica Viva GS16 GPS system; three VR systems: an Oculus Go, an Oculus Rift, and an HTC Vive; and a Hexagon Geosystems Stream C ground-penetrating radar unit (GPR).

Bainbridge’s role was performing terrestrial laser scanning (using the phase-based Faro laser scanner as well as Leica BLK360 and RTC360 time-of flight scanners), establishing geodetic control with the Leica GS16 GNSS receiver and Leica Infinity software for areas scanned throughout the workshop’s tenure, and kinematic LiDAR capture of the Volterra streets using the Leica Pegasus Backpack with Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) technology. Sinclair’s primary role was capturing aerial mapping data via drones with mounted cameras. They uploaded point clouds to Cintoo, which triangulated that data and turned it into a solid. Team members then moved that data into Civil 3D® and Revit® to create models.

“It was surprising how accurate the point clouds from the UAV cameras were using photogrammetry when compared with precise ground-based LiDAR scanning,” Sinclair commented.

Unfortunately, due to significant ground moisture and depth of the ruins, the GPR scan results were not as successful, leaving much of the unexcavated extents discernible only by the surface topography.

“Surveyors always say we don’t have x-ray vision—GPR didn’t change that in this case,” Bainbridge commented. “One of the most difficult things we run into in the surveying profession is determining the location of things that we can’t see.” This served as a healthy reminder that surveyors don’t always get all of the data they’d like.

However, this second trip certainly wasn’t in vain. In addition to the data capture and modeling of the amphitheater, the Workshop completed subsequent scans on many of the same historic features from the first trip. Not only is the team documenting these artifacts and ruins in ways that allow the public to interact remotely through VR platforms such as Matterport, Cintoo, and Unreal, but the team has been able to make real data deliverables; for example, using the team’s laser scan information, Sinclair and Bainbridge produced a Civil 3D® surface and cross sections of the amphitheater, which allowed the city engineer to assess existing drainage structures and plan for upcoming excavation work.


What’s Next?
Many of Volterra’s historic sites are now digitized. The Roman amphitheater is currently on the “Tentative List” for Heritage Site classification from UNESCO.

“The opportunity to collaborate with an international team of architects, engineers, historians, and students to digitally record Volterra’s architectural history from the first century B.C. was amazing,” Celender remarked. “The support we received from Mayor Buselli was critical in our efforts. The access we had to the city, the Roman theatre, etc., to fly drones and to perform scanning missions was incredible. The wine and grappa [a grape-based brandy] were pretty memorable, too!”

“One of the most rewarding parts of this project has been using data we’ve captured to benefit the ongoing preservation efforts in Volterra,” Bainbridge said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the photo-realism of reality capture data and gloss over the fact that all of those beautiful colorized data points are actually survey-grade measurements. Before this workshop, my experience with GPR and magnetic line location had been in determining the approximate locations of utilities; I had never thought of applying this technology in the field of archaeology. We’ve come pretty far compared to the old days, which wasn’t actually that long ago—the days when surveyors made calculations in a notebook without the use of a calculator, and wrote down angles. Look where we are today!”

This advanced technology—and this team’s novel yet crucial use of that technology—is quickly becoming a game-changer in our industry.


Source: American Surveyor