Virtual Design Analysis Group is a division of NVentum, LLC.

This unique collaborative endeavor; to utilize the latest reality capture technology to document the artifacts, buildings and campus of History San Jose, provides opportunities for private sector, non-profits and institutions of higher education to work together to solve some of today's most pressing engineering issues. The protocol for retrofitting as-built historic facilities and the use of new technologies to preserve our most prized historic treasures are vital to the continued success and expanded influence of our museums.
This blog will document the challenges and successes of this ambitious, one of a kind project.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Details, Details

When I first envisioned this project, I saw a very complicated, thought invoking process that would require hundreds of hours of planning in addition to the actual on-site, physical processes involved in developing the end product. At initial presentation, the museum and campus present quite a challenge for any skilled professional let alone a project involving community college students. It's definitely challenging but it can be accomplished with proper curriculum, guidance and instruction.

After touring several of the restored homes on the property, I realized the amount of detail in the reality capture of the building's interior spaces would be one of the most critical aspects of the the project. Capturing the detail of the architecture is routine and there are no surprises from that aspect. However, when touring the homes and seeing the details involved in the artifacts, furnishings and objects on display, the scope of the project expands 3 fold. Obviously, there are paintings, antique lamps, photos, and furniture; everything you'd expect in a traditional home. Where it gets complicated is the "little details"; for instance, the kitchen, all the utensils

and "stuff". There are drawers full of antique cookware, eating utensils, food storage bins, an "Ice Box", salt & pepper shakers, etc..That's expected too, however the point of the 3D model is to provide the museum's operators with a detailed operational model that contains all artifacts and objects in the museum.

How do we account for cooking utensils that are in the kitchen but not visible, obstructed because they are stored in the cabinets and drawers? Sounds like a minor problem but as we get into this project, it becomes much more of an issue. The deeper you delve into this project, the more layers you discover; and "layered" is the best way to describe this project.

Logic says we start with a survey of the property. We follow the survey with the reality capture of the exterior of all the structures. We follow that with the reality capture of the interior of the structures. Now, we must attach the interior scans of the buildings to the exterior scans scans taken earlier, making sure we have the proper coordinates. These recently joined building scans must be attached to the GIS survey model. Next, artifacts must be scanned, documented and placed within the 3D model. The artifacts must then be attached to a coordinate within the 3D database as part of the asset management process. Simple, right?

Before I get too carried away, let's not forget I was just discussing the documentation phase of our project. Reality Capture and documentation is just one component of the overall plan. This began as a BIM project and we are squarely committed to the concept(s) of BIM and its relationship to environmental sustainability. Integration of intelligent systems to control and monitor building(s) performance, energy consumption, maintenance and operations are essential to the success of this project. Museums are particularly concerned about the quality of the environment where the artifacts are housed and maintained. Contaminants, pollutants, humidity, heat, cold, insects, larva and a host of other environmental concerns are a constant threat to the preservation of historical treasures. This was a major factor in NVentum's decision to develop this project in collaboration with a museum.

Indoor air quality has a major impact on our health and productivity. According to a 2009 report for the U.S. Department of Energy, in the United States commercial and residential buildings account for 39% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions and 70% of electrical consumption per year, according to the US Department of Energy. Buildings consume more energy than any other sector of our economy including transportation and industry. Proper Building Information Management (BIM) technology can have a major impact on the health and productivity of our community. Existing SMART technologies and procedures can improve Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in a manner that significantly increases employee productivity and health. According to an August 2000 report from the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the estimated potential savings and productivity gains in the U.S. alone are $6 Billion to $14 Billion from reduced respiratory disease, $2 to $4 Billion from reduced allergies and $20 to $160 Billion from direct improvement in worker performance related to health. The importance of the sustainability questions that will be addressed through this project simply cannot be overstated.

When I was given access to the museum's warehouse which is located off the main campus, I was struck by the enormous responsibility we've assumed. For some reason, the History Park has always seemed to be more of a local "neighborhood museum" to me. This is probably a sentiment that is shared by many locals and San Jose natives. The reality of what we have in our own backyard is simply staggering. History San Jose is truly a treasure trove containing bits and pieces of every possible aspect of the human experience in San Jose and Santa Clara County. I am amazed, not only the enormity of the collection but the range and variety of artifacts. In one hour, I saw a prototype of the first Apple Computer mounted on a wooden board, a wooden bicycle built in the mid 1880's, five (5) antique motorcycles from pre-1920, native american pottery and handwritten notes from the valley's first Spanish settlers to the Royal Court of Spain.

The responsibility for implementing a proper procedure(s) for preserving these artifacts takes on a whole new meaning when you are face to face with treasures that chronicle the lives of the individuals and families of that helped establish and settle Santa Clara Valley.


  1. Great post! I am actually getting ready to go across, this post is very informative.