High precision thermal cameras from FLIR Systems are being used to carry out mandatory exterior wall inspections in Japan.
Following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, there is greater demand from the people to check the durability and reliability of existing buildings. UDI Corporation, a government-designated private agency provides various building inspection services including exterior wall diagnosis using FLIR thermal cameras.
Japan’s Building Standards Law requires that periodical safety inspections be made on specific types of buildings and reports of these inspections submitted to the relevant authorities. A recent revision of the regulations refers to specific building materials used in the construction of walls including tiles. It states that if any abnormal deterioration or damage is observed or if ten years have passed since any external wall renovation, a thorough check of the outer tile walls must be carried out, either by using a hammer and checking the sound or with an infrared thermography camera.
Thermal cameras are preferred for this inspection for providing a less intrusive method than hammering the walls. Thermal cameras have also become increasingly popular as a building maintenance tool and in dealing with client concerns as they are also useful in detecting water leaks and other building problems.
One of the first companies in Japan to realise the potential of this innovative technology within the building industry, UDI Corporation has established its thermal inspections as a viable service by clearly explaining the benefits to its clients.
UDI Corporation Director Mr Toru Suzuki summarises the benefits of infrared exterior wall inspections using thermal cameras under four categories: safety and security, low cost, speed and reportability.
Safety and security
The complete absence of vibration or noise during inspection eliminates discomfort to residents or people in the building. Scaffolding isn’t required to carry out the inspection, and there is no risk of infringing on the privacy of the building’s occupants.
Inspections carried out with a thermal imaging camera eliminate the costs associated with the installation and removal of scaffolding and gondolas, as inspectors can survey the building and capture images at ground level. Personnel costs are reduced as it is not necessary to take additional measures to ensure the safety of building users or to control neighbourhood traffic.
The elimination of scaffolding and the ability of the thermal camera to capture large wall sections at once, mean that the inspection can be carried out far quicker than previous methods.
Compliance and reporting
Infrared inspection allows for quick reports from speedy inspections and is approved as an alternative inspection method to hammering inspections for the periodic reports required by the Building Standards Law. The data can be stored electronically, allowing for paperless operations. Periodic infrared inspections also help monitor the aging and deterioration of buildings.
FLIR SC620 high precision thermal camera
UDI Corporation has chosen FLIR Systems' high precision and high resolution thermal camera, the FLIR SC620 to conduct building inspections. Mr Toru Suzuki explains that they selected the FLIR SC620 for its high precision and high resolution necessary for the diagnosis of buildings, especially for large outer wall inspections. The FLIR SC620 features a built-in high definition digital camera (3,200,000 pixels) and high resolution (640 x 480 pixel) thermal camera, capable of detecting temperature differences as small as 0.04°C.
The SC620 can also be equipped with an extender lens for long distance observations when UDI needs to scan tall or wide targets, working in tight spaces. The 5.6” wide LCD and tiltable lens unit of the FLIR SC620 make it perfect for building inspections. It also has easy access to a video connection, which is convenient when the findings need to be shared with customers.
ITC Infrared Training Centre
While selecting the right thermal camera is critical, Mr Suzuki believes training is equally important as infrared wall inspection needs advanced analysis expertise backed by experience. UDI initially purchased the high-accuracy infrared thermal camera FLIR SC620 and then added the FLIR T640 and FLIR Researcher software to cope with growth in demand. Using these tools, a team of trained engineers has been engaged in on-site building diagnostic inspection and data analysis full-time.
All eight members of UDI’s full-time thermal engineering team have completed the ITC infrared training level 1. Taking ITC training allows them to scan buildings under various test conditions 24/7, day or night in all seasons, and to make an accurate diagnosis and reports based on their knowledge of thermography and building architecture. The team will next take ITC level 2 training in order to make maximum use of thermal imaging technology and provide a reliable inspection service.
UDI Corporation performs inspection services as an inspection body, designated by the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Ministry of Japan, and has a top share of the Kanto area of Japan. Mr Suzuki comments UDI is looking for a strong partnership with FLIR Systems with regard to its thermal cameras and technologies to help increase public awareness on thermal inspection and diagnosis, including non-destructive and non-contact exterior wall and water leakage inspections.