Member of staff teaching surveying at Kenilworth Castle as part of the Historic England Metric Survey School
Historic England runs a number of courses on specialist survey skills, which in 2014 were based at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. © Historic England
Historic England runs a number of courses on specialist survey skills, which in 2014 were based at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. © Historic England

Surveying and Recording Heritage

Historic England produces technical advice on how to survey historic places to the best standard possible. This section provides an introduction to our technical advice on the following topics:

Geospatial Survey Specifications for Cultural Heritage

To ensure that geospatial survey data is both appropriate and 'fit for purpose', Historic England has developed a suite of standard survey specifications for measured building and topographic survey.

The fourth edition of this publication covers various geospatial survey techniques for a range of heritage applications. This includes laser scanning, multi-image/structure-from-motion photogrammetry, and the capture of low-level aerial imagery using drones. These are all increasingly being applied by different cultural heritage professions.

The guidance is a standard specification. We also provide an editable project brief template that can be tailored to a reflect the needs of a particular project.

Further client guides for a range of techniques and applications are also available from The Survey Association.

Measuring and Sensing

Laser Scanning

The third edition of 3D Laser Scanning for Heritage, published in 2018, provides updated advice and guidance to users on laser scanning in archaeology and architecture. This documents covers the variety of new surveying and imaging technologies being developed and applicable to heritage including pedestrian and vehicle based mobile mapping systems. The guidance is supported by a number of case studies.


We have produced new technical guidance relating to the archaeological application of photogrammetry with particular reference to Structure from Motion (SfM) techniques. This new publication raises awareness of the issues that are commonly encountered and the many potential uses for photogrammetry across a wide variety of scales, ranging from landscapes to small objects.

Multi-light imaging

Highlight-Reflectance Transformation Imaging (H-RTI) is a safe, non-invasive recording method to capture surface texture information using a series of digital photographs. Providing the heritage asset can be illuminated with an artificial light source, H-RTI can help eliminate the need for contact or destructive sampling and protect it. H-RTI can be used on surfaces from around a 2 metre diameter down to a microscopic level. A virtual version of RTI can be used at a landscape scale

Using airborne lidar in archaeological survey

These guidelines are designed to help those intending to use airborne laser scanning (ALS), also known as lidar, for archaeological survey.

The aim is to help archaeologists, researchers and those who manage the historic environment decide first whether using lidar data will actually be beneficial in terms of their research aims and then how it can be used most effectively.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) for heritage

BIM for Heritage

Historic BIM is, by definition, a multi-disciplinary process that requires the input and collaboration of professionals with very different skill sets. It is also a fast-developing field in terms of research, official guidance, standards and professional practice. This publication addresses the issues surrounding the production and use of BIM for historic buildings, and provides information about guidance and standards available elsewhere for managing a building’s entire life cycle effectively.

Also see the report from Council on Training in Architectural Conservation (COTAC): BIM4C Integrating HBIM Framework Report Parts 1, 2 and Illustrative Bibliography

BIM for Heritage- Developing the Asset Information Model

This guidance published in 2019 is the second in a series of documents on BIM for heritage and focuses on heritage asset management, in particular conservation repair and maintenance, and suggests that the first task when adopting a BIM information management approach is to develop an Asset Information Model (AIM) to act as a digital repository for information about the asset.

Landscape survey

Traversing the past the total station theodolite in archaeological landscape survey

This guidance covers the electronic Total Station Theodolite (TST) and its use in landscape archaeology. Metrically accurate surveys underpin the process of observing, recording and understanding archaeological landscapes, and four case studies provide details of some of the processes involved.

Where On Earth Are We? The role of Global Navigation Satellite systems (GNSS) in archaeological field survey

This guidance supports the work of both professional and volunteer groups who wish to develop their use of GNSS technology for archaeological landscape survey, whether the aim is to produce detailed plans of earthwork sites, to collect data for use in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) or for reconnaissance work.

Graphical and Plane Table Survey of Archaeological Earthworks

The use of simple methods of measurement described in this guidance using tapes, a plane table or an optical square will help both experienced landscape archaeologists and novice practitioners to develop their observational and analytical skills.

Learn more

View the 2020 webinar: Geospatial survey

Geospatial survey encompasses a wide range of survey technologies for capturing three dimensional data and digital imagery of heritage objects, buildings and landscapes. Once processed the outputs provide accurate, scalable base documentation that aids a variety of applications including archaeological/architectural analysis, site presentation, condition survey, structural monitoring and conservation works planning.

This webinar discusses the heritage application of geospatial survey technologies. Through reference to two case studies, it considers their use for historic buildings and structures alongside some of the challenges faced when undertaking or commissioning survey work.

View the 2021 webinar: BIM for Heritage.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is defined as 'a collaborative process for the production and management of structured electronic information and illustrating, in digital terms, all the elements that compose a building'. It has been increasingly used across the UK since 2011 following launch of the Government Construction Strategy that recognised the benefits of digital collaborative working processes for the construction industry. Although this definition suggests BIM has application potential across existing heritage buildings and structures, its main application area remains within new-build construction. Held in association with the BIM4Heritage special interest group, this webinar explores the application of BIM within the historic environment.

For the best webinar experience, please use Google Chrome browser or download Adobe Connect.

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