A thermal image of a building. Credit Dr Matthew Fox.

A new research project is being launched to investigate whether the energy performance of new and renovated buildings can be improved through the use of thermal imaging cameras as a core component of the construction process.

DeViz (Defect Visualisation via Thermography) will involve researchers at the University of Plymouth and the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, working with construction supervisors to identify quality defects at an early stage using the thermal technology.

The two-year, £200,000 study, funded by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), will also seek to develop a methodology that will enable construction supervisors to include the use of thermal imaging cameras as a standard element of their quality management.

“Quality defects in buildings are a significant risk to reducing the energy used for heating them,” 

said Dr Julie Goodhew, an Environmental Psychologist at the University of Plymouth. 

“Defects detected at an early stage in the construction process are more time and cost-effective to rectify. But identifying them with the naked eye can be very difficult – whether it is issues with insulation, moisture or ventilation, or even defects of design, workmanship and materials. Through DeViz, we want to find out if using the cameras to spot defects has a behavioural effect, promoting a ‘learning loop’ among site staff so that defects can be spotted early, improving the quality of work, reducing build costs and ultimately saving demand for energy.”

The research team will work with construction partners and site supervisors at two locations around the UK to evaluate the effectiveness of the thermal imaging approach, at mid-build stage in the building process. The aim will be to establish whether construction companies can embrace the technology and embed it within their processes to create a ‘zero-defect’ culture.

Professor Steve Goodhew, of the School of Art, Design and Architecture, and project lead for DeViz at Plymouth, said: 

“If the UK is to hit its ambitious efficiency targets, then we need to ensure that our buildings are performing to their maximum capabilities. We know thermal imaging can produce behavioural change in home-owners, and this will hopefully go some way to establishing its future viability in the construction industry.”

DeViz is one of eight projects announced today by CREDS as part of its Early Career Researcher Flexible Fund Call. All of the projects relate to one of CREDS’ work themes: Buildings & Energy; Digital Society; Flexibility; Materials & Products; Policy & Governance; and Transport & Mobility.

It is the latest in a long line of major grants received by Plymouth’s Environmental Building Group, which includes recent award-winning work to bring the ancient material of cob into line with modern thermal and structural building regulations.

The Environmental Building Research Group

Based within the School of Art, Design and Architecture, the group's main research concentrations are in fields of building performance analysis and construction management

Find out more about the group's research
Thermal image of housing from Professor Steve Goodhew