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Drone technology for infrared thermography

Drone technology for infrared thermography

You may want to have an infrared survey carried out for a variety of reasons. Infrared thermal imaging technology is ideal for detecting defects and energy deficiencies of buildings and housing stocks. Combined with drone technology, it becomes a limitless tool.

Let's take a closer look at drones.

ENHANCING IRT SURVEYING: FROM FOOTPRINTS TO DRONE FLIGHTS

For 16 years IRT Surveys have been surveying buildings using infrared thermographic (IRT) cameras. Mostly on foot. This means that when it is a high building or a flat roof which needs surveyed, equipment  such as cherry pickers have to be hired. This has cost implications for our clients and Health & Safety implications for our certified thermographers and anybody or building in the surrounding area.

There are other technologies available:

  • Radio controlled tethered air balloons: wind and power lines make them impractical.
  • Telescopic pneumatic mast bolted to a van:  a relatively successful technology that IRT Surveys used for years. Ideal then to capture an entire flat roof in a handful of images. The downsides are time-consuming set up, dangerous in windy conditions, and taking images at weird and unexpected angles. Also from a practical point of view, parking the van at the correct location for carrying out the infrared survey can be problematic. The whistling noise created when driving the van is also distracting. Today, masts are largely a thing of the past thanks to other technological advances.
  • Radio controlled helicopters have been around for years, but are difficult to fly and terrifying with the blades and internal combustion engines wiring away.

Nowadays we use drones. IRT Surveys have a small fleet of drones in the UK operated by CAA approved, ITC qualified thermographers with night-time licenses.

3 ADVANTAGES OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

Drones are a breeze to fly and present at least three main advantages.

  1. Drones are safe and get the camera to places that are cost-prohibited by any ground based system. From a high vantage point we can also cover large areas in a short window of time.  They are therefore ideal for tall building and flat roof surveying.
  2. They are capable of carrying thermal imaging cameras better than handheld ones to heights that neither a mast nor a cherry picker could reach.
  3. The flight plan can be programmed on a tablet allowing the drone to fly largely autonomously . Since it’s usually us humans that crash the things, this can only be a good thing.

As with any technology, they aren't perfect and and their future will be determined by regulation. Many companies are investing in anti-drone technology now to shoot drones out of the sky. We shall see how this materialises.

CONDITIONS TO USE DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

  • The thermographer must have the permission to survey the buildings, the owners/tenants and neighbouring buildings of the activity.
  • An area adjacent to the surveying site must be cordoned off for take-off and landing.
  • A qualified operator has to provide his permissions to operate with certificate from the CAA. Without this the operator will not be insured.
  • They has to carry out risk assessments that are site specific.
  • Finally they also need thermography experience in order to capture the correct data and setting up the correct parameters required for the job in hand.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY IN IRT SURVEYING?

Like all emerging technologies, the sector is full of “give-it-a-go-heroes”. Fast forward 5-10 years they will be gone, the market consolidated and a handful of professionals left doing it properly.

For IRT surveys, it is a nice thing to have available to us. Still 95% of our surveys are still done on foot by thermographers at night in low wind.

Maybe down the line when you call we will simply deploy a local drone to your building and not need the skilled local thermographers to actually take the pictures at all. Their role will become one of convincing you it’s a good idea and to talk you through the findings and recommend solutions based upon technical knowledge and experience.

Looking in the short to medium term, at IRT Surveys, we can’t see the drones replacing a skilled human just yet though. But like the humble hammer, there will come times when you need a drone. It is always handy to have the tool in your box.

Do you have high buildings or flat roofs which require surveyed with thermal imaging? If so, please do contact us for a fast, impartial and clear survey.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Stress-free IRT Survey

Commissioning an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey is easy. We tell you here what you can expect during the survey process so that you have a stress-free IRT survey.

Reasons for commissioning an IRT survey

We have already pointed to a few strategic reasons why you would commission an infrared survey. We have been providing infrared services to the construction professional sector in the UK for 14 years and the reasons are wide and varied but can be distilled down into 3 main headings.

  • You have a problem and nothing else seems to be helping resolve it.
  • You are not sure if you have a problem and want an expert opinion.
  • You definitely have building issues and no-one can agree who is to blame.

More often than not you are seeking a reactive survey to a problem which manifests itself in a new building or refurbishment project. IRT surveys is often called upon as a “silver bullet” solution.

Managing your expectations

Managing your  expectations as a client is part of what’s involved in the process. Most of our clients have little technological knowledge of IRT. They rightly rely on us to know what we are doing and wrongly  do sometimes ask impossible things. No, we cannot find a leak on a roof from a satellite in space. You need a thermal imaging camera mounted on a drone and a thermographer for that.

The technology has its limitations. But you will be blown away by just how useful a tool IRT is for the maintenance of your site. Here are the 4 common expectations from our clients that we systematically need to address if we want you to have a stress-free IRT survey.

Your expectation: ‘My thermal pictures will be really sharp.’

We have already discussed the technology and science behind IRT. Today’s cameras are digital, radiometric (every pixel has a value), portable, un-cooled and affordable. We use FLIR cameras. They fit in our pocket and can be bought for less than £500. That alone is great news for us all.

Don’t expect great resolution as this is still way behind that of your average smartphone though, but that will change. Fast forward 10 years and they will be embedded in every smart phone.

Your expectation: ‘The survey will be conducted as soon as I submit the purchase order’.

How do we take an image properly, i.e. an image you can rely upon to make an investment-grade decision?

Once you have established your need to get a survey done and contacted us to describe your problem to one of our team members, you decide to proceed. Your deadline will be our major hurdle.

The weather is the biggest challenge we have. We need the right conditions to carry out a successful survey. No point promising you that it will be on your desk tomorrow if it is raining today and is too windy the next day. We need cool, dark, dry evenings to take thermal images. This means that you will have to wait until the weather conditions are correct.

Your expectation: ‘You can come and survey at anytime.’

The shape and height of your buildings are not a problem: with our fleet of drones we can survey tens of thousands of metres of flat roofs in under one hour. We even take care of the civil aviation and insurance bureaucracy.

Access to your premises may be a problem though. We need to be able to see the entire fabric externally, internally, in daytime and again at night time. Sometimes special entry permission are required as invariably there will be out-of-hours access required. You need to make sure that security personnel has been informed, that someone is available to open and close the doors, that required authorisation  has been given and recorded. We can’t enter premises without this, and will have to come back if we can’t get access, hence delaying the survey and the reporting.

Your expectation: ‘I’ll get the report the day after the survey is done.’

Once thermal images of your building have been captured, depending on the size of your project, there is in general up to 5 days worth of  skillful analysis to be conducted. We don’t take this lightly and do make recommendations based on the findings so that you can target repairs or refurbishment. This is what your infrared survey report is here to deliver: visual results and impartial advice so that you can make informed decisions.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

With trouble-free access, the right weather and up-to-date equipment, we stand an excellent chance of successfully meeting your objectives.   If you are contemplating stripping off a flat roof on the advice of your flat roof leak survey report you are paying for, you best make sure you can trust the company providing that advice.

Used properly, IRT is an amazing technology which can save you thousands of pounds on your maintenance budget. By knowing what makes a valuable survey and its subsequent report, you are guaranteed a stress-free IRT survey experience.

Are you looking to refurbish your buildings and don’t know where to start? We will be happy to advise you. Please contact us for your free no-obligation quote by clicking on the button below.

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The role of the buildings management professional

The role of the buildings management professional

Buildings management

 

Buildings management or asset management is a multi faceted problem with many variables, many answers and many viewpoints.

 

 

 

The meaning of managed buildings

The very definition of the word ‘management’ raises questions. What do we mean by ‘management’, and more precisely ‘a managed building’?

The word ‘quality’ by itself means ‘to a standard’. Add a qualifier and the meaning changes: High quality, Low quality etc. Much like ‘quality’, ‘managed’ means nothing without an adverb.

Are your buildings ‘well managed’ or ‘just’ managed? What does that ‘well managed’ actually mean?

  • On the one hand, it means bought and sold at a profit.
  • On another, it means full of happy tenants who are up to date with their rent.
  • It can also mean it has a well thought-through and beautifully executed maintenance plan.

The truth is that a ‘well managed’ building means all of these things. Having a stunning building with no tenants is a badly managed building. A full building that is falling apart also leaves a lot to be desired.

We, at IRT surveys, take the stand that

a ‘well managed’ building is about satisfying all of the criteria efficiently.

The importance of well managed buildings

Why it’s important ought to be obvious, but often clients don’t perceive the value and effort that go in to ensure that “managed” is appropriately qualified as “well managed”.

First and foremost, buildings management is about maintaining the built environment for future generations to enjoy, to live-in and work-in. Next up, must be about deriving value and revenue from those assets for the current owner. Somewhere in-between is the how, why, when of the inevitable maintenance, refurbishment, change of use, mitigating risk and complying with legislation.

With any building, whether it be a office block, shopping centre, airport, school, there are common issues that we can address when it comes to the building fabric itself.

There are three elements that go wrong with buildings: product, design and workmanship. These are universal truths and apply to just about every aspect of a building, from roof to floor, wallpaper to lightbulb.

Buildings management: TLC til the end of the shelf-life

New buildings are built with a shelf-life in mind. For some, it can be as short as 25 years. All that effort in the design, material selection and actual building activity, knowing it won’t last that long, deliberately is clearly a waste. However budgets have to be met, clients have finite resources at their disposal and if the building returns their investment within their desired timeline, so be it. Anything else is a bonus. This short-termism is detrimental to the health of our planet but it is reality.  The good news is that more and more clients are looking for longevity and sustainability. Consequently, buildings that aren’t  designed to last forever need TLC.

Buildings management: Evolving purpose of a building

Much of the built environment in the UK appeared in Victorian & Georgian times. Walk in any major city London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow for example, and take a moment to admire this stunning architecture around you. Turn a corner and you will see 60’s architecture next door to Shards, Gherkins and Walkie-Talkies, or OXO Cube and Armadillo if you are in Glasgow.  Some built to last, others less so. The variety is amazing, complex and presents managers with a smorgasbord of problems and solutions.

This is where the role of the building manager is vital. The manager has to take a Victorian building, built over 100 years ago as a bank, converted into a shop in the 60’s, then flats in the 80’s and now turn it into an open-plan coffee shop with mod cons. It is a difficult task. But it is one that starts with a decent survey of “as built”.

From as-drawn to as-built

The specification when the drawing leaves the architect’s virtual drawing board and hit the quantity surveyor’s desk and subsequently main contractor and sub-contractor changes at every stage to go from architectural vision to the ‘built on time and on budget’ reality. Taking as-drawn to mean as-built is a dangerous road for sure. The two concepts will never match exactly in almost every building in the country.

The manager’s role then is to avoid assumptions, treat every building as blank canvas, start from scratch, gather data then align reality with aspiration.

If you happen to be working for, or with, some of the professional companies like Gleeds, Knight Frank, WYG, Watts and CBRE then the task flows from one department to the next. One team values, buys and sells, another team survey and another does the Facilities Management side of things. Which sounds easy, but really isn’t that simple and specialist skill is under appreciated.  Everyone in that chain cannot be an expert in every aspect of building fabric analysis for example. Each person has their own objective. This approach is mirrored throughout the construction industry. Finger pointing and blame pervade the sector.

No information means no decisions. Indecision slows down the commercial side of life and therefore must be avoided where possible. The clean sheet approach may not be possible in every instance but sometimes the quality and quantity of data at your finger tips are so poor that you have no choice but to take that approach.

Buildings management: Establishing the building condition

A building manager / facility manager / asset manager must use their experience and the right tools to establish the condition of the building before their eyes. Specialist companies, like ourselves, who can survey a building from top to bottom and provide an accurate baseline of performance, track leaks, see delamination, wet insulation, voids, pipework, over heating distribution boards etc and help speed up the process whilst keeping the costs low.

There is also an army of companies out there pushing their own products. Some good, others less so.

Impartial advice ought to be in the forefront of every managers mind. Questions such as: Can I trust this advice? Does it conflict with my own thoughts? Why are they making this recommendation? Do they profit from their advice?

A decent building manager ought to be cynical, diligent, knowledgeable and suspicious! In many ways they need to be Sherlock Holmes but have Bob The Builders “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” attitude.

 

Do you manage old and/or new buildings? Do you want to manage them well and make data-driven decisions? Is this data currently missing from your portfolio? If your answer is ‘YES’ to these three questions, then please do contact us by clicking on the link below.

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What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

What are the challenges in the Real Estate Management profession?

Real Estate Management

 

Real Estate Management profession covers a wide range of roles in many different sizes of organisations, in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Like any other profession, it faces many challenges.

Real Estate Management: asking the challenge question

We held a very successful webinar at the end of September on The Future of Building Asset Management which gathered speakers from RICS, BBA, OVO Energy and South Yorkshire Housing Association. More than 100 people registered for the event, coming mainly from the building surveying sector, local authorities and housing associations.

We were keen to understand their challenges so that we can help them overcome them. When registering, they had to answer a simple question:

“What challenges do you face in your profession?”

 

Real Estate Management: answers to the challenge question

Luckily the webinar participants agreed to answer. Knowing that their answers would remain anonymous, they provided candid and honest comments.  These were collated, de-duplicated, and classified in themes.

Challenges clearly lie around data, internal and external relationships with interested parties, time management, understanding and meeting clients’ requirements, compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment, costs and finances.

Interestingly the practical elements of managing buildings and their fabric was the least mentioned.

Real Estate Management challenge: Data

Collecting robust and consistent data.
Access to good building information.
Accurate data.
Access to comparable data.

Real Estate Management challenge: Internal and external relationships with interested parties

Dealing with contractors.
Local authorities’ representatives.
Managing lifecycle works against hard facilities management services.
Managing a portfolio that is administered by all sorts of departments under one roof.
Making decisions affecting the course of project it would take.
Interdepartmental Communication and Planning.
Conflicting pressures.

Real Estate Management challenge: Time and time management

Real Estate Management challenge: Understanding and meeting clients’ requirements

Knowing what the client’s risks are.
To offer clients value for money in the changing economic environment.
Engagement.

Real Estate Management challenge: Compliance in an evolving legislative and technological environment

Shifting legislation.
Compliance.
An ever changing market.
Need to understand latest technology for asset management.
Converting theory into something tangible.
Improve my general knowledge in the building survey industry.
Knowledge.
Overcoming technical challenges.

Real Estate Management challenge: Costs and finances

Cost.
Finances.
Finding funding for organisation.
Reduced team size.
Delivering sustainable and manageable income stream for surveying team.
Market failure in terms of price signals to attributing value to sustainable property assets.

Real Estate Management challenge: Managing the fabric of buildings

Ageing Buildings.
Water Ingress.
The diversity of cases.

It is not our intention to provide an answer to all these challenges, as some of them are outside our control. Our technology, teamed with intuitive bespoke software however may be able to alleviate the severity of these challenges so that you work in a much less stressful condition.

Do you face similar challenges? Or do you experience others that are not listed above? We are keen to know.

Contact us to discuss.

Register for our next webinar on Tuesday 29 November at 1 pm: Miranda Plowden, South Yorkshire Housing Association Business Development Director, shares her views and experience of managing building assets. For full details and to register, click on the button below.

Register for webinar.
Why you must attend CPD sessions

Why you must attend CPD sessions

Delivery of CPD session

The sole purpose of Continuous Professional Development or CPD is to ensure professionals remain exactly that – professional.

Before answering the question “Why you must attend CPD”, we look at what CPD is, its purpose and its format.

CPD – Definition

According to The Business Dictionary, The definition of professional is –

“A person formally certified by a professional body of belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards”.

Purpose of CPD

The purpose of CPD is to help keep professionals up to date with technological advances, procedures or legislative and regulatory changes that impact upon their profession. For example, you wouldn’t want to undergo surgery  if the surgeon couldn’t be bothered keeping themselves up to date with the latest techniques and instrumentation. Scary thought!

It is also about training, expanding your knowledge and most of all increasing your competency so that you can offer your clients the best advice or service and they can be reassured that they are spending their money wisely with you.

Many professions require CPD to be undertaken to retain a particular status often linked to their chartership, eg accountancy, surveying, human resources management, engineering, information management. The list goes on.

Architecture and building surveying are no different. A surveyor who is unaware of how materials interact or an architect who is blissfully unaware of a building that collapsed due to a design flaw is risking their reputation and the lives of those occupying his buildings. It can be that important.
Not all CPDs are created equal of course and whilst some are common for a wide range of professions others are specific to a trade: for example, learning about the latest wallpaper adhesive might not save lives, but maybe it uses non-toxic, recyclable materials that make disposing of it safer for the environment or taking it off again much easier. If you aren’t open minded and listen – you will never know, and you may left behind by your competitors who will be aware of new developments.

Format of CPD

CPD can take many formats. You can attend exhibitions, conferences, workshops, lectures or host events for your team in your office. Professional organisations such as RICS propose day-long CPD session in various cities in the UK.

Companies like ours, IRT surveys, offer free CPD seminars that will enlighten you as regard the technology, advances in software and changes in legislation. A true CPD seminar isn’t a sales pitch from the company providing the service,  but they are provided free of charge, so please give  the provider a healthy round of applause at the end.

Companies that offer free CPD often do it to educate the market about their latest innovations and products, but also to present themselves to you as both market and thought leaders in their field.

Personally, I like face to face CPD in the board/meeting room. One presenter and 10-12 in the audience. It a nice size to present to, people are not intimidated to ask pertinent questions, they don’t feel the peer pressure like they do with 200 in the audience and consequently they ask great questions. Our calendar of CPD events is filling up and sessions are always well attended.

Why you must attend CPD sessions

There are many reasons you should attend a CPD:

  • To keep yourself up to date and relevant.
  • To elevate your company above your competitors.
  • To train your staff, often for free.
  • To mitigate risk from law suits.
  • To maintain your professional status.
  • To exploit your new knowledge to increase revenue.
  • To increase efficiency.

Do you keep putting off your next CPD session? Do you have the intention to attend the next one, but get distracted at the last minute by something that seems more pressing?  Then how can you truly say that you are a professional?

Don’t let your chartered status be at risk. Keep up with your profession, make your services future-proof by attending your next CPD session.

Get one better: organise a session in your office and invite your colleagues and your clients.

We are already looking forward to your phone call to arrange a date and deliver a session on infrared thermal imaging technology, its applications and benefits for building surveying.

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Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Flat roofs are relatively inexpensive and very efficient to keep your buildings and your internal assets covered and protected from the weather. What can you do to identify flat roof defects?

Defects for flat roofs

Whilst their relatively low cost for a good protection plays to their advantage, this type of roof is also notorious for defects that often remain unnoticed until it is too late. As with any part of a building, they will be subject to wear and tear and will receive copious amounts of water.  Regular inspection of the roof is essential to make sure that this essential element is in tip top condition and kept free of defects.

One of the most common defects is water ingress which then leads to a leak inside the building. When water ingress does occur on a flat roof, damage often goes unnoticed for considerable time as water slowly penetrates and soaks the decking, insulation and/or structure beneath. This can lead to extensive damage. If left unattended and no leak detection surveying takes place, it can weaken the whole structure and have catastrophic operational and financial consequences for you.

Other defects can occur too. You can read our most popular blog post about the five common flat roof defects here.

There are several methods of detection of flat roof defects. We have already discussed the merits of three surveying methods: ELD, Nuclear and Infrared. Here  we look at core sampling.

Flat roofs core sampling to detect water ingress

Core sampling allows the surveyor to figure out how the roof was built and locate where water penetration may be. In the thermal images above you can notice a small white area that looks a little like a bowling pin. This is a small torch safely placed on a flat roof to mark the location of a core sample.

You will also note that on the left image the core sample was taken in what is showing thermally as a red area. On the right the core sample was taken in what is showing thermally as a blue area.

On the left, the red area highlights that where the core sample was taken, insulation was wet. On the right, the blue area highlights that where the core sample was taken insulation was dry.

You can find out more about the meaning of infrared colours in our Understanding Colours post.

These two images tell you everything you need to know about the accuracy of core samples. By relying solely on core sampling, your surveyor could mistakenly concludes that the entire roof needs replaced or on the opposite, that the roof is sound. How can you know for sure?

If your surveyor is employed by a roofing company, the impartiality of the advice could well be put into question. It is a matter of trust and reputation.

Flat roofs core sampling technique

The method and process of core sampling is therefore important. The core sample technique should be as follows:

  • take one core sample at a high point,
  • take one core sample at a low point and
  • take one core sample mid-way.

Critically this should be at random locations on the roof, not in a straight line. That way the surveyor can find out if water is coming in at parapets and tracking it down, if the area around the outlet is wet as water loves gravity and then try to ascertain the extent of the damage at the mid-point.

The surveyor will take appropriate notes and photographs. Then of course, they must patch the core sampling holes by resiting the sample and sealing the edges. Often this is made using blow torches.

This technique carries high risks for you and for the surveyor:

For you risk of fire from blow torches. Smouldering the flat roof away and causing extensive damage which could cripple your business,

Again for you invalidating roof construction guarantees by cutting holes through potentially perfect waterproofing.

For the surveyor, the risks are inherent to health and safety: slipping on a wet surface, working at height, stand alone working, fire protection, etc.

It is therefore easy to conclude that core sampling should be a last resort surveying technique, just before the nuclear surveying method.

Flat roof defects: infrared is the detection solution

If you are an asset manager, estate manager, building surveyor and are being asked to make a budget go as far as possible, then it is essential you get and give impartial advice to the building owner. By investing in an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey,  you mitigate risk from a third party advising whichever solution meets their commercial needs and wants.

Infrared can’t tell the difference between polyurethane and fibreboard. Wet is wet and that effects the temperature on the surface. Why? Simply put, wet insulation doesn’t insulate as well as dry insulation – so heat escapes the fabric. Also because water has a high emissivity. This means that water radiates its energy particularly well when it has finished absorbing it from the sun and from the building itself. This high emissivity makes the wet area appear warm to the infrared thermal camera.

With drones now extensively used to take the thermal pictures, thus eliminating most if not all health and safety risks for the surveyor as well as improving the accuracy of the surveying results, there is little not to like about infrared.

IRT may help you save hundreds of thousands of pounds by turning what you had assumed would be a complete “strip and re-new” into a partial strip and overlay. Conversely however the opposite may be true.

The point being: you will get the truth and if you are interested in delivering value to your clients and managing a sustainable portfolio, that’s an invaluable weapon in your armoury.

Core samples have their place of course. We will always advise you hand your infrared survey reports to your roofing company who may then core and confirm the infrared survey findings. More importantly the core sampling will allow them to establish what the roof is actually made of so that they can propose the appropriate solution for your roof refurbishment.

Do you own or manage buildings with flat roofs? We would like to know what surveying method you favour and why. Drop us a line, give us a call, let’s talk all things flat roof surveying.

Get in touch

 

Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Who we are

A team that loves to create

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Let’s work together! Drop us an email to get started!

What we do

Keep it simple

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Wanna see proof? Check out our work! 

flat-roofs-core-sampling

Flat roofs are relatively inexpensive and very efficient to keep your buildings and your internal assets covered and protected from the weather. What can you do to identify flat roof defects?

Defects for flat roofs

Whilst their relatively low cost for a good protection plays to their advantage, this type of roof is also notorious for defects that often remain unnoticed until it is too late. As with any part of a building, they will be subject to wear and tear and will receive copious amounts of water.  Regular inspection of the roof is essential to make sure that this essential element is in tip top condition and kept free of defects.

One of the most common defects is water ingress which then leads to a leak inside the building. When water ingress does occur on a flat roof, damage often goes unnoticed for considerable time as water slowly penetrates and soaks the decking, insulation and/or structure beneath. This can lead to extensive damage. If left unattended and no leak detection surveying takes place, it can weaken the whole structure and have catastrophic operational and financial consequences for you.

Other defects can occur too. You can read our most popular blog post about the five common flat roof defects here.

There are several methods of detection of flat roof defects. We have already discussed the merits of three surveying methods: ELD, Nuclear and Infrared. Here  we look at core sampling.

Flat roofs core sampling to detect water ingress

Core sampling allows the surveyor to figure out how the roof was built and locate where water penetration may be. In the thermal images above you can notice a small white area that looks a little like a bowling pin. This is a small torch safely placed on a flat roof to mark the location of a core sample.

You will also note that on the left image the core sample was taken in what is showing thermally as a red area. On the right the core sample was taken in what is showing thermally as a blue area.

On the left, the red area highlights that where the core sample was taken, insulation was wet. On the right, the blue area highlights that where the core sample was taken insulation was dry.

You can find out more about the meaning of infrared colours in our Understanding Colours post.

These two images tell you everything you need to know about the accuracy of core samples. By relying solely on core sampling, your surveyor could mistakenly concludes that the entire roof needs replaced or on the opposite, that the roof is sound. How can you know for sure?

If your surveyor is employed by a roofing company, the impartiality of the advice could well be put into question. It is a matter of trust and reputation.

Flat roofs core sampling technique

The method and process of core sampling is therefore important. The core sample technique should be as follows:

  • take one core sample at a high point,
  • take one core sample at a low point and
  • take one core sample mid-way.

Critically this should be at random locations on the roof, not in a straight line. That way the surveyor can find out if water is coming in at parapets and tracking it down, if the area around the outlet is wet as water loves gravity and then try to ascertain the extent of the damage at the mid-point.

The surveyor will take appropriate notes and photographs. Then of course, they must patch the core sampling holes by resiting the sample and sealing the edges. Often this is made using blow torches.

This technique carries high risks for you and for the surveyor:

For you risk of fire from blow torches. Smouldering the flat roof away and causing extensive damage which could cripple your business,

Again for you invalidating roof construction guarantees by cutting holes through potentially perfect waterproofing.

For the surveyor, the risks are inherent to health and safety: slipping on a wet surface, working at height, stand alone working, fire protection, etc.

It is therefore easy to conclude that core sampling should be a last resort surveying technique, just before the nuclear surveying method.

Flat roof defects: infrared is the detection solution

If you are an asset manager, estate manager, building surveyor and are being asked to make a budget go as far as possible, then it is essential you get and give impartial advice to the building owner. By investing in an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey,  you mitigate risk from a third party advising whichever solution meets their commercial needs and wants.

Infrared can’t tell the difference between polyurethane and fibreboard. Wet is wet and that effects the temperature on the surface. Why? Simply put, wet insulation doesn’t insulate as well as dry insulation – so heat escapes the fabric. Also because water has a high emissivity. This means that water radiates its energy particularly well when it has finished absorbing it from the sun and from the building itself. This high emissivity makes the wet area appear warm to the infrared thermal camera.

With drones now extensively used to take the thermal pictures, thus eliminating most if not all health and safety risks for the surveyor as well as improving the accuracy of the surveying results, there is little not to like about infrared.

IRT may help you save hundreds of thousands of pounds by turning what you had assumed would be a complete “strip and re-new” into a partial strip and overlay. Conversely however the opposite may be true.

The point being: you will get the truth and if you are interested in delivering value to your clients and managing a sustainable portfolio, that’s an invaluable weapon in your armoury.

Core samples have their place of course. We will always advise you hand your infrared survey reports to your roofing company who may then core and confirm the infrared survey findings. More importantly the core sampling will allow them to establish what the roof is actually made of so that they can propose the appropriate solution for your roof refurbishment.

Do you own or manage buildings with flat roofs? We would like to know what surveying method you favour and why. Drop us a line, give us a call, let's talk all things flat roof surveying.

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