Predicting the future: How infrared thermographic surveys are used to diagnose future building defects

Category: Discover & Diagnose Energy Inefficiencies

Scottish Parliament

Infrared thermography is not only used to expose existing building defects, but also diagnose symptoms that can lead to future issues, this is done by using infrared thermographic surveys.

Whether it’s water ingress, weakening materials, cladding issues or anything else that could compromise a building’s performance, the unique insights provided by a single thermal image enable surveyors and property owners to identify potential problems long before they manifest themselves in a costly and damaging form.

Parallel this approach with traditional surveying techniques. While a thermal image can be captured in a matter of seconds, surveyors would need to conduct time consuming and often-destructive tests in order to identify problems that may not necessarily exist (and even if they do, could be extremely hard to detect with manual processes). Meanwhile, taking a holistic view of the building is a logistical impossibility, meaning it is down to the surveyor to prioritise the areas that he/she believes to be most vulnerable.

As such, just like they would with their own health, infrared thermography is enabling property owners to have their properties assessed regularly without any disruption to anyone else. They can see where issues are arising and identify ailments long before they turn into something more troublesome; essentially infrared thermographic surveys are used to diagnose future building defects.

IRT Surveys has already provided thousands of clients across the world with the information they need to avoid costly defects. For instance, a tender race for a £10m contract was recently started for the upgrade of the National Library of Scotland, which has been shown to be suffering from leaks as a result of not being windproof or watertight.

InfraredThis, however, was information that IRT revealed almost exactly nine years ago when we were asked to conduct a thermal survey of the property. Testament to the speed and non-destructive nature of the process, images of the entire interior and exterior were captured over just two days and revealed several areas of temperature inconsistency, mostly located around window frames and roof edges.

Such temperature differences are indicative of the presence of moisture and the visual nature of the results highlighted the probable entry points. Meanwhile, several images of the roof also showed the likely presence of moisture below the roofing system.

By failing to address these issues sooner, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the building now suffers from widespread air and water leakage and the hunt is now on to find a contractor to replace the building’s external envelope.

A similar scenario unfolded with the Scottish Parliament building. In 2005, an IRT thermographic survey revealed a range of cladding defects resulting in significant heat loss. These have continued to be problematic and resulted in the need for several costly upgrades.

Both examples beautifully highlight infrared thermography’s effectiveness at identifying defects long before they fully occur and precisely why an increasing number of owners are using the technology to produce annual checks of their property’s performance.

At a time when defects may not only result in financial hits but also legal issues, especially in the face of increasing energy regulations, it is crucial that property owners are given advice that prepares them as much as is realistically possible for the future.

Without infrared thermography, this is an impossibility; with it, it’s as simple as taking a photo. Check out our ‘Infrared Thermography: The Judge and Jury of Defect Detection’ article for more information.