The Re/Cap – Issue #16: Civil Rights Landmark Capture + Porsche Twinning + AI Soothsayer

Welcome Re/Cappers, and a happy 4th of July to our American friends!

Y’know, a marvel of reality capture is its capability to not just present what is…but what was.

We’ve got a lead story on an American heritage documentation project, but it got RCN thinking – is there even a federal documentation program? If so, how far back does it go?

The answer is (thankfully) yes, and (surprisingly) a near-century! In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was formed. And not just because some POTUS dug rickety county courthouses like one does vintage Harleys, oh no.
HABS Architects, 1930
HABS workers/PIPE fans in the 1930s Image credit Legends of America.
It was actually a public-private venture between the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, and the American Institute of Architects. And it went on to document masterfully, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces. Following this rousing success, the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) would be born, and thrive just the same. 

HABS is not only still operating today, but preparing for tomorrow in its training of architects, historians, and preservationists. Not too HABBY.

What’s Cappenin’ This Week: An Alabama civil rights landmark gets documented, BIM & digital twins tag team for sustainability, an AI legend updates predictions on stage wearing sick suspenders, Porsche brings a positive charge to battery tech, and an AEC Error of the Week in Minneapolis, Minnesota that sparked nationwide maintenance.

Last week on U.S. Congress targeting Chinese drones, reality capture going Hollywood, St. Peter’s Basilica getting preserved, XR in AEC, and a trip to South Korea for one of the most catastrophic structural failures in modern history for an AEC Error of the Week.

History, Heritage, Honor: How Scans and 360° Cameras are Documenting a Civil Rights Landmark

Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of 1965’s ”Bloody Sunday,” during which 600 Selma-to-Montgomery marchers were viciously attacked by state troopers. So as an iconic symbol of America’s civil rights movement – one with a unique construction methodology to boot – three capturers knew this vital bridge had to be documented.
John Lewis in front of marchers crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965.
The calm before the storm that would be Bloody Sunday, an indelible moment in America’s history. Image credit Workers World.
Danielle Willkens, Junshan Liu, and Shadi Alathamneh harnessed terrestrial scanners, 360° cameras, UAVs, structure from motion, BIM, and more to honor the Southern landmark. Get the case study’s abstract below, where you’ll also find a download option for the exceptional full paper if desired.

BIM & Digital Twins, Long at Odds, Might Now Defy Them

Ambiguity might help a movie ending’s impact or Mona Lisa’s fame. But to AECO stakeholders’ data, ambiguity is a thorn in the side, and there may not be a better example than BIM and digital twins.

But the National Institute of Building Sciences just laid down a path of clarity.
Diagram of structured inoperable data comparing BIM and digital twin
Sure this may be an oversimplification, but interoperability between these two need not be so hard. Image credit Digi Twin.
The NIBS’ Digital Twin Integration Subcommittee just published a new position paper, presenting a future where “BIM and digital twins coexist and synergize to drive sustainability and enhance operational performance.” Linked below, the paper covers demystification amidst public perception, use cases, execution, data frameworks, and much more.

Ray Kurzweil’s Been at it AIwhile. And He Just Laid Out Our AI Future.

When you’re a futurist and get called a “restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes, um, you’re probably right about stuff, like, a lot.

Meet 76-year-old Ray Kurzweil, who ventured into the AI domain in 1963. Folks, that’s before seat belts were standard.
The accelerating pace of change and exponential computing power
“Analytical engine” would be another great Kurzweil nickname, thanks Babbage. Image credit TIME/John Maeda.
An AI legend, proponent of and author on what he calls the Singularity, and intrepid suspenders-wearer, Kurzweil just blessed the TED stage in alignment with his latest book release. Buckle up for a mind-opening 13 minutes, linked below.

Doppelgängin’ Direct Current: Porsche’s High-Voltage Battery Digital Twin

It might be pronounced Porsch-uh…but there is no hesitation in the German automaker’s foray into the future.
Digital Twin infographic, a combination of physical and AI models at porsche
How ‘bout the same chart but for bratwurst, pretzels, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and beer in a glass boot. Yum. Image credit Porsche.
Battery demand is skyrocketing, and what we drivers demand of them is too. So OEMs and suppliers want to go full-blown detective on the aging and wear of battery cells and systems. Now let’s think, how on earth could such comprehensive monitoring take place? OH!


Collapse of Mississippi River bridge
Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Image credit Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.
Bridge collapses are not foreign to AECEotW.

But the cause of the I-35W bridge failure in Minneapolis is indeed a first-timer.

On August 1, 2007, the city experienced a catastrophe that would impact infrastructure management across the nation. The I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, a critical artery carrying 140,000 vehicles daily, suddenly collapsed during evening rush hour, plunging into the river below. The primary cause was a load capacity design flaw that had been present since the bridge’s construction in 1967: gusset plates that were only half as thick as they needed to be.

As Brick Immortar elucidates in his video breakdown of the disaster, metal fatigue simply wasn’t grasped in 1967 like it is now – or at least like it was after this infamous collapse. And on the whole, bridge inspections increased across the nation following the I-35W bridge failure. This is where the reality capture point begins to hit home.

Preventive action could have been taken nationwide before the collapse instead of after – but old workflows also could have also made such measures too arduous or time-consuming.

While it’s easy to analyze past events with the benefit of hindsight, this case underscores the importance of thorough, ongoing structural monitoring and assessment – AKA, the stuff optimized by reality capture and digital twins.

Had ongoing reality capture of the bridge been conducted, the undersized gusset plates and their gradual deformation under stress might have been detected much earlier. Changes or deterioration would have been clearly visible when analyzing BIM data over time, allowing for early intervention. A continuously updated digital twin would have allowed engineers to simulate the effects of increased loads over the years and the impact of modifications.

The most valuable lessons in the AEC industry are those that prevent future tragedies. With reality capture and digital twins, even AI and robotics, we yield a superpower – turning potential disasters into preventable scenarios, ensuring the trust in, and longevity of, our infrastructure.

Minnesota Legislature Review and Incident Timeline

Mini Re/Caps, Podcasts, and Media

Happy capturing, and we’ll see you in next week’s Re/Cap! If you liked what you just read, a share will do the industry a built-world of good! 

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