Modelling building costs from 3D building models - estimating the construction effort from image-based surface models of dry-stone sheperd shelters (Kras, Slovenia)


In the second half of the 19th and early 20th century, sheep shepherds have built dry-stone shelters all over the Slovene Kras (or Karst) region. Despite being made out of stones that are interlocked without the use of any binding material, many of these vernacular constructions survived – even though sometimes only partially – the ravages of time. The fact that over one hundred fifty shepherd shelters are currently known is mainly due to the craftsmanship of their builders and thanks to (and even despite) their present location. A majority of these stone constructions can be found in areas that are nowadays forested, thus shielding them from weather-related or anthropogenic damage (because they are difficult to spot). This paper reports on the geometric documentation of those shelters using a photogrammetric computer vision pipeline, thereby mainly focussing on the difficulties that were encountered during this process. However, such image-based modelling approaches merely yield digital three-dimensional (3D) approximations of the shelters' surface geometry (along with some sub-optimal colour data). Although these 3D surface models might be suitable to digitally preserve vulnerable vernacular buildings to some extent, they do not magically advance our understanding of them. The second part of this article focuses, therefore, on the extraction of archaeological information from these digital 3D constructions. More specifically, the total amount of stones, the total building time and the building cost regarding caloric energy expenditure are estimated for each of the digitised shelters. Although this assessment of architectural energetics provided useful insight into the building efforts and nutrient uptake of the shepherds, it also revealed many assumptions and shortcomings that often characterise archaeological information extraction from digital 3D models of buildings.

ISPRS - International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences