Purpose This article presents a case study on the Heritage Building Information Modeling (H-BIM) application in a historic village in Bursa, Turkey. The study addresses how tailor-made and highly structured H-BIM approaches can effectively be implemented in preservation applications for historic vernacular buildings in the rural architecture context. Design/methodology/approach Using inexpensive digital photogrammetry techniques tightly combined with an object-oriented BIM ontology, parametric meta-modeling and object/system propagation methods, the study employed a holistic H-BIM approach for capturing the materiality, building object behaviors and indigenous construction principles of a characteristic vernacular house that were synthesized in a parametric H-BIM model. The followed stages, steps and connected methods were systematized and articulated in a prototypical H-BIM implementation framework. Findings The study findings suggested that the developed parametric H-BIM approach can return effective results with the combined use of low-cost and practical digital photogrammetry with BIM methods. The flexibility and adaptability of the parametric H-BIM implementation framework facilitated the synthesis of a comprehensive H-BIM model and allowed an in-depth evaluation of local architectural heritage with its physical, spatial and environmental characteristics. The proposed H-BIM approach also provided significant documentation and system-specific assessment benefits for preserving the vernacular examples which are prone to extinction especially due to structural and systemic deterioration. Originality/value The study proposes a feasible, practical and replicable H-BIM implementation methodology for vernacular preservation applications. The knowledge-embedded H-BIM approach, flows and techniques presented in this study provide a holistic and systematic H-BIM framework - with the integrated use of digital photogrammetry and parametric meta-modeling methods - that has the potential for the democratization of H-BIM applications in education and practice.