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How Highgate Cemetery is Using BIM to Preserve its Site

How Highgate Cemetery is Using BIM to Preserve its Site
22 March 2023

BIM-enabled models and point cloud technology have been used to extensively survey Highgate Cemetery, as part of a masterplan to secure its future.

In 2021, Gustafson Porter + Bowman and Hopkins Architects were appointed to deliver a new 25-year masterplan for the site, which will secure its future and ensure it remains a historic, and sustainable, 21st-century cemetery. It will include the provision of modern facilities for those looking after the site as well as improving it for grave owners and visitors.

Originally opened in 1839, Highgate Cemetery went into decline in the 1970s before being rescued by a charity, Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust. The charity has been focused on reversing nature, clearing access routes and repairing damage to the landscape and to buildings, caused mostly by neglect and self-set trees. Footfall at the site exceeds 100,000 visitors a year, the majority of which pay to enter the cemetery and take part in guided tours to the various buildings, monuments and the most notable of the graves, including Karl Marx’s.



Picture: a photograph of one of the many buildings on the Highgate Cemetery site. Image Credit: Digital Inc.


The Challenges of Surveying Highgate Cemetery


Digital Inc. carried out topographical and measured surveys, to produce accurate BIM-enabled models in Revit format, translated and derived from highly detailed 3D point cloud data, thereby allowing the design stage of the project to commence.

The topographical condition, as well as the graves, monuments and various buildings were to be extensively surveyed. This included identifying which of the 5,300 trees were dying and would therefore need removing as part of the project.

Due to the density of trees and heavy foliage throughout the site, some areas were unable to be surveyed by terrestrial scanners. A UAV was used to fly over and enable these inaccessible areas to be captured, from a position of safety, to ensure maximum coverage.


BIM-Enabled Representation of Highgate Cemetery Site


Digital Inc. was tasked with compiling full 3D measured surveys of the vast site, including the landscape and surface features. They were to develop 3D BIM-enabled Revit models, 3D photogrammetry models and full set of 2D CAD drawings and orthophotos of 16 buildings and monuments.

The architects’ brief and requirements were for an accurate record (+/-20mm) of visible property and assets being collected digitally to produce a fully BIM-enabled graphical representation of the site. This would enable the client to utilise and implement future redesigns and preservation of the Grade I listed site. It was also imperative that the model be flexible enough for any future developments such as change in regulations and specifications.

Traditionally a project of this scale would have required up to 3 months just to survey the site, but thanks to the latest laser scanning and UAV technology, all data capture was completed in just 4 weeks.

Upon completion of the site work, the captured data exceeded 1.5TB. This was then cleansed and analysed in order to visually depict the results within drawings and models. The final output ran to over 200 drawings and models delivered in Revit 2022, along with all captured imagery in various formats.

The project as a whole is expected to take 25 years to complete.

Picture: a photograph of a row of tombs at Highgate Cemetery. Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 22 March 2023


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