Commissioning Building Envelopes Using Infrared Thermography

Mario Goncalves
Principal, Global Business Leader - Building Science
Underwriters Laboratories, Montreal

Infrared thermography is used extensively in the building construction industry as a quality control and forensic tool to assess air leakage performance and the presence of moisture in exterior wall assemblies. Applying this practice to tall buildings, however, requires a strong building science background and understanding of the dynamic forces which act on the building envelope. This presentation focuses on diagnosing building envelope anomalies in tall buildings using infrared thermography and other diagnostic tools.

The application of infrared thermography to assess building envelope anomalies in tall buildings can be exemplified through several practical case studies. These examples are pulled from buildings located in the north-eastern Canada region, given the harsh winter conditions and significant temperature variations throughout the year, air leakage and moisture ingress within exterior wall assemblies is a common source of tower envelope failures in the region. Canadian building codes and construction methods have consequently evolved considerably over the past several years in order to address these issues.

This presentation also discusses building science principles in order to highlight the basic fundamental principles pertinent to using infrared thermography as a diagnostic tool to assess building envelope anomalies. The use of other diagnostic tools, in conjunction with infrared thermography, such as high-power blower doors specifically designed for tall buildings and portable high output smoke generators, are also examined. Primarily, this presentation seeks to increase the level of knowledge in the building community of the benefits and limitations of using infrared thermography and other diagnostic tools in relation to high-rise buildings.