The Camera Never Lies: You Can Learn a Lot from Thermal Imaging

By Craig Carson

I was reading the September issue of our fine magazine, filled with great information and educational articles, and Lyle Hill’s always entertaining and humorous column, when one article by Ellen Rogers, “Breaking Bridges,” grabbed my attention.

The discussion of designing the glazing framing to have its thermal plane (usually the centerline of the glass and the thermal break) line up with the exterior ridged insulation of the adjoining metal stud wall system is paramount to a good design. I have been advocating this for years.

Speaking from Experience

The accompanying photograph in that article (see right), reminded me of a project that I had done prior to joining Alliance Glazing Technologies. It was about 15 years ago, and was here in Denver.

It was the first job in which we also provided the metal stud framework with metal panels, punched windows and unitized curtainwall with flyby corners (a first for us). The project was also difficult because we got involved late, after the first building envelope company decided to quit the business.

In the Details

With our late start, we tried to catch up with the engineering and material procurement. The job had its ups and downs, but the final product looked amazing. That project, though, was one of the early ones subject to commissioning, and that included thermal imaging of the building.

The first pictures the commissioning entity took to show the performance of the curtainwall looked terrible. I asked them what procedure they used and when the pictures were taken. They explained that they wanted to highlight the building to show where the biggest differences were in the wall between the areas with the least amount of energy loss to the greatest. Back then building codes for energy savings were not as stringent as they are today, but we still exceeded the minimum requirements.

What they next told me was a little shocking. They turned the building’s heat up to 85 degrees (this was in November) and then took pictures after midnight when it was cold to really highlight the differences. Well that certainly worked, but it was flawed because they also had all of the exterior and interior lights on. That made areas like the soffits of balconies really light up.

It was good they did this, though, because we found that the insulation contractor missed one of the walls. The thermal imaging showed this and we were able to get him back to insulate it.

In the end, the procedure to shoot the building with the thermal imaging was reviewed and changed, the building was reshot and the result was much better and well within the requirements. Sometimes you just need to get past the first results, dig into the issues and get them resolved.

Craig Carson is the director of preconstruction for Alliance Glazing Technologies Inc. in Littleton, Colo.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.