Given time is frequently money when it comes to building defects, needless to say this is one of the first questions we are often asked when it comes to assessing a property with infrared thermography.
The answer, of course, depends on exactly what it is you want us to survey – suffice to say, a shopping centre will take considerably longer than a shed.
What we can promise, however, is that it will always take considerably less time than more traditional surveying techniques.
Speed and convenience are two of the biggest advantages of infrared thermography and key reasons for the growth of the technology for thorough defect detection in the past few years.
For instance, let’s say you have a persistent leak seemingly coming from your building’s roof but cannot precisely locate the problem. You have frustrated tenants to appease and concerns about the problem spreading, leaving you with three distinct options.
One, of course, is to leave it be, and keep your fingers tightly crossed that tenants will empathise with the stress of the situation and put up with the leak so as not to bother you. We’ve yet to hear of this approach working anywhere.
Another is to kick the tenants out for an undisclosed period while disruptive, costly and time consuming work is carried out on the roof in question. This can result in failed testing of healthy areas, disputes and unreliable advice from third parties with a vested interest in selling you products
Or thirdly, you could call in an impartial infrared thermographer to carry out tests while your tenants go about their day to day lives unaffected. This could involve an afternoon spent testing the roof with Electronic Leak Detection technology. If this were to reveal no penetrations, then the thermographer could carry out a infrared survey of the property’s roof and elevations, perhaps revealing the source of ingress not to be the roof at all but rather porous brickwork on the walls which is found to show anomalies in the same area both internally and externally.
Now omit the word ‘perhaps’ – this is not a hypothetical story.
It took us just one day to be the judge and jury of this case, saving the property owners potentially weeks of stress which could have resulted in serious disputes or even legal issues with tenants.
Thermal images can be captured in a matter of seconds and one of our favourite examples which highlights their effectiveness is the five year dispute we solved in just three seconds last year.
While landlord, tenant and two sets of building surveyors fought consistently over the poor performance of the roof of a large commercial building, our simple thermal image showed it to be in excellent condition. Another image, however, revealed a buildup of water in the cladding system – something that had not been considered throughout the whole messy dispute.
The practicalities of using the technology are what make it so quick and easy. Photos can be taken from a distance with minimal fuss while building occupants remain completely unaware and that’s precisely why the technology is particularly useful for large scale projects.
Two recent examples including the surveying of 90 schools for Arthur McKay building services on behalf of one of the largest local authorities in Scotland and our project with Clackmannanshire Council.
In terms of the former, all flat roofs, elevations and anomalies of the schools were assessed in just 30 days. That’s an average of three schools a day and factors in the travelling associated with covering a large area. None of the buildings had to close during surveying and there were no associated health and safety risks.
With the latter, a staggering 250 domestic properties were assessed for poor, damaged and missing insulation in just two weeks. The timescale was of huge importance as it granted the council enough time to apply for the outgoing CERT and CESP funding mechanisms.
In terms of defect detection, infrared surveys can be carried out effectively in most conditions although there are restraints when the focus is on energy efficiency.
Thermography takes an extremely precise approach to energy loss measurement and as such, accurate assessments can only be carried out in specific conditions. For instance, you cannot survey unless there is a temperature difference of 10C (minimum) between the inside and outside of the building. It’s also absolutely imperative that conditions are dry.
Capturing images of a cool, wet building will fail to highlight areas of missing and
damaged insulation and greatly limit the areas of heat loss that are revealed. Wind is also problematic, as high speeds will simply result in energy loss blowing away before it can be accurately measured.
That means surveys cannot be carried out unless the wind speed is less than 10m/s.
And finally, it’s always best to work at night in order to ensure factors such as absorption of heat from the sunlight and the interior of the building itself are taken out of the equation in the survey’s findings.