CIMS: The potential of new and emerging digital technologies for architectural rehabilitation and heritage conservation.

November 5, 2018

Lara Chow is the Associate Director at the Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) — a research centre associated with the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University. She has led several research teams for projects at CIMS including the Centre Block BIM, Library of Parliament BIM, and the development of an urban model of the National Capital Region of Ottawa. Lara holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and Masters of Architecture from Carleton University.

Q. Please tell us about Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS)

A. The Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) is a Carleton University Research Centre associated with the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism. Over the past decade, CIMS has developed an international reputation working with public, private, and not-for-profit partners to develop a diverse portfolio of projects that demonstrate the potential of new and emerging digital technologies for architectural rehabilitation and heritage conservation.

The research centre has five streams of inquiry: Digitization, Building Information Modelling (BIM), Simulation, Digitally Assisted Fabrication, and Digitally Assisted Storytelling. This diverse range of research interests has cultivated a multi-disciplinary team — students range from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows and come from disciplines such as architecture, engineering, computer-human interaction, public history, and information technology.

Q. CIMS recently won the CanBIM Innovation Spotlight Academic Award and Best in Innovation Award, please tell us what this means for CIMS?

A. Winning both the CanBIM Academic and Best in Innovation Award is a significant achievement for CIMS in that it demonstrates our commitment to both fundamental and applied research. If the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Operations (AECO) industry is going to accept responsibility for our impact on culture and the environment and to act upon that acceptance, it is essential that both modes of thinking and acting are nurtured. CIMS would like to thank our fellow members of CanBIM for acknowledging our contribution and we look forward to working with you in the future. We would also like to express our thanks to the Parliamentary Precinct Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada for their leadership and foresight.

Q. What is the CIMS’s overall philosophy towards Digitization?

A. We advocate for the thoughtful and critical integration of computing and information technologies within existing cultural and disciplinary contexts — eschewing the evangelical rhetoric that often surrounds “the digital”. Our philosophy may be best realized in the following quote by Reyner Banham:

The architect who proposes to run with technology knows now that he will be in fast company, and that, in order to keep up, he may have to emulate the Futurists and discard his whole cultural load, including the professional garments by which he is recognized as an architect. If, on the other hand, he decides not to do this, he may find that a technological culture has decided to go on without him. (Theory and Design in the First Machine Age).

This idea continues to guide our work that addresses the development of hybrid workflows bringing forth the invisible measures of architecture and animating the visible world of construction.

Q. Please tell us about your tri-council training programs — SSHRC Partnership and NSERC CREATE.

A. CIMS holds a $2.2 million SSHRC Partnership Grant (New Paradigm / New Tools for Architectural Heritage in Canada, 2015-2022) and a $1.6 million NSERC CREATE grant (Heritage Engineering) to provide research, training and internship experiences for students in heritage conservation and documentation.

New Paradigm / New Tools is an innovative training program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The program addresses the theoretical, practical and ethical imperatives surrounding the use of new and emerging digital technologies for the conservation and rehabilitation of our built heritage. The training program is organized around a series of internships with national and international partners, with our masters, Ph.D., and post-doctoral interns undertaking research and training in Asia, Europe, and North America. Undergraduate students will work with our Canadian partners, developing basic skills and building content for our online resources. Interns have the opportunity to undertake interdisciplinary research with some of the world's leading academic and professional teams working in the application of digital technologies for architectural heritage.

The program launched in 2015 and will unfold over the next seven years with the goal of training Canada's next generation of academic researchers and industry leaders in architectural heritage, rehabilitation and conservation. We are currently accepting applications for academic, industry and government partners, as well as student interns. Please visit for more information.

Q. What is the next project where technology/BIM is being implemented?

A. The diverse research streams at CIMS allow for a wide range of projects that employ emerging digital technologies and BIM. The assets that we capture and develop during our BIM workflow can be re-packaged and disseminated to the public through engaging modes of digitally assisted storytelling including web, mobile, and virtual and augmented reality applications. One of our current projects explores the translation of BIM to VR for public engagement.

Q How do you manage your “BIM Workflow” during the project life cycle?

A. Standard BIM workflows typically address new construction. At CIMS we have had to develop new workflows that push the boundaries of typical digital workflows used in the AECO industry by incorporating emerging digital technologies and atypical applications of existing technologies. These workflows have evolved greatly over time to address the intricacies and complexities of modelling heritage buildings — as well as the challenges of working with ever-changing technology.

Q. Finally, please share information about the major challenges in the AECO industry you feel technology will help to overcome.

A. The emergence of digital technologies in the AECO industry provides an exciting opportunity for enhanced collaboration amongst not only industry partners, but also industry and academia. As a research lab, we are able to help answer questions posed by industry through continued testing and experimentation. We are hopeful that in sharing our research online and with industry partners we can work together to achieve the most of these technologies.

Thank you for taking the time to share with us!