Preserving mankind's past from mother nature's quakes

Preserving Mankind's Past
Author: Dr. Shakhzod Takhirov

Civil engineers are in a continuous search of non-destructive measurement techniques that can help to estimate structural condition. The high definition surveying (HDS) or laser scanning, from Leica Geosystems fulfils this need.

A joint research team comprised of members from UC Berkeley’s Structures Laboratory (a research lab specialising in full-scale structural testing and numerical analysis), Miyamoto International (an earthquake and structural engineering firm in the USA), Smart Scanning Solutions, LLC (a 3D scanning and modelling service provider in Uzbekistan) and BNZ (Leica Geosystems’ representative in Uzbekistan) has been deploying HDS reality management technology at heritage monuments along the historic Silk Road within Uzbekistan. Multiple monuments have been captured and analysed for earthquake susceptibility.

The beginning: assessment of natural decline

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As a representative example of the many heritage monuments, the Registan Square ensemble in Samarkand, Uzbekistan was selected. The ensemble includes the Ulugh Beg Madrasah, 1417-1420, the Sher-Dor Madrasah, 1619-1636, the Tilya-Kori Madrasah and Mosque, 1646-1660, and the 18th century Chorsu domed market.

Earthquakes, extreme seasonal temperatures, normal depreciation of the buildings and the economic crises of the 18th and 19th centuries have left the ensemble in a ruined condition. Structural repairs and straightening of the minarets had been conducted in 1923 and 1932; however, major restoration works were undertaken in recent years.

The ensemble was scanned from more than 70 stations with a Leica ScanStation. In addition to the global dimensions of all monuments located within the ensemble, the scans captured all details of the monuments: tile shape and dimensions, their overall locations in the monuments, any imperfections and the overall geometric shapes of the portals and facades. To achieve this level of detail in point density, all scans were conducted with a density of 2 mm by 2 mm.

The scan data produced extremely valuable results to be used in the decision making of further restoration strategies for the monument located in this earthquake-prone area of Central Asia. In generation of finite element models from the point cloud, Leica Cyclone software was used for surfaces with complex geometry.

“With the ScanStation's ability to achieve ultrahigh scan speeds, we were able to quickly collect the data needed for a thorough investigation of the monuments,” said Liliya Myagkova, Smart Scanning Solutions CEO. “And Cyclone’s simple registration enabled the team to process the point clouds for fast analysis.”

The point cloud of one of the leaning minarets provided answers to questions regarding the amount of incline in the structure. Based on the analysis of the point cloud, an estimate of 4.6 per cent of inclination was obtained. The original taper of the minaret is estimated as 2.3 per cent.

New expeditions and monitoring by laser scans

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The laser scanning expeditions were expanded into new cities. An extensive list of historic structures included many cities of Uzbekistan: Bukhara, Shakhrisybaz and Tashkent. In addition to that, more historic structures in Samarkand were scanned.

Shakhrisyabz is located in southern Uzbekistan approximately 80 km south of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Once a major city of Central Asia, it is primarily known today as the birthplace of 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur. The scanned monument, the Kuk Gumbaz (Blue Dome) Mosque, is from the Timurid Dynasty era and it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The monument was built in 1437 and over the centuries has undergone several restorations and reinforcement efforts.

The historic monument was scanned from 13 stations with a Leica ScanStation C10. Data registration was performed in Cyclone and error did not exceed 3 mm for all scans used in the final registration. The monument was scanned from outside, inside of the main hall, and inside of a stairway with a large crack between the portal and the main structure.

“With Uzbekistan’s extreme continental climate, the research team needed to ensure it could rely on the instruments. As the C10 can work in temperatures anywhere from -20 to +50 degrees Celsius, it was ideal for this project,” said Brian Quigley, BNZ director. “The full 360° x 270° field of view also ensured scanning the complex surfaces of the monuments would capture all features and make the process simpler for the researchers.”

The monument’s point cloud was investigated for anomalies. The main portal was investigated for its inclination from a vertical plane passing through the bottom of both piers. The portal’s inclination increases from south to north with the maximum differential displacement of 0.6 m at the top north corner. To ensure this degree of inclination of the portal is not progressing, a periodic monitoring by laser scanning was recommended to be carried out. It was also advised to proceed with the installation of laser targets to increase accuracy of monitoring. The permanently installed targets provide a consistent comparison between point clouds collected at different times.

The geometry of the finite element model was generated from the point cloud. All major imperfections and existing reinforcements were included into the geometry of the model. Numerical modelling and subsequent analysis was conducted in specialist software SAP2000.

Since there is a very large variability in the material properties of masonry walls, material tests were conducted on a brick recovered from the site. The material properties were used within the software for accurate modelling.

The minaret was scanned at different times to check if the inclination is progressing over time. The first scans were conducted by the ScanStation C10 and the second point cloud was collected by the P-series ScanStation. The first scans were registered to the second scans in Cyclone. The inclinations are estimated as a vector at each elevation with directivity and value. The latter result uses the main advantage of the high-definition laser scanning that captures multiple points of the surface that cannot be obtained by other means.

Future research for more protection

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The test projects won interest from, and collaboration with, the Uzbekistan authorities dealing with heritage buildings. This provided permissions for the additional heritage scanning along Uzbekistan's active seismic zones in Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Shakhrisyabz.

With HDS scanning combined with material testing, advanced calibrated models were produced, accounting for brick properties, current conditions, and previous structural reinforcements. Long-term monitoring is being strategised and conservation recommendations are being provided based on the research data, including the investigation of dampening devices at an active mosque with multiple structural concerns.

“Laser scanning helps us to capture structural anomalies of historical artefacts so we can help protect them for future generations,” said Amir Gilani, Miyamoto International, Manager of Earthquake Engineering Department. “Without this advanced technology, it would be challenging to get the as-found geometry of historic structures with accuracy of few millimetres that is essential for structural analysis.”

In recognition of the team’s effort and value of the collected data, the point clouds were accepted into the CyArk 500 Challenge database, an international effort to catalogue and archive endangered cultural heritage.

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