By using thermal imaging technology from FLIR, Camden Council is well on the way to meeting its carbon emission and reduction targets
The carbon emission and energy consumption targets set by the London Borough of Camden are indeed ambitious – by 2015 it wants cuts of 21% and by 2020, 40%. However, investment in thermal imaging technology means that the council can now efficiently identify problem areas, and the introduction of specially designed tags is raising public awareness in the area.
A significant step forward in Camden Council’s energy reduction strategy came last year with the purchase of a FLIR B620 thermal imaging camera, as the local authority’s energy management officer Danny Hunt explained, “There is surely no quicker, non-invasive way to identify heat loss and gains. A thermal image is easy to explain, provided the operator is trained, and a good quality image is a very powerful means of raising awareness.”
To support its energy saving initiative, Camden Council had been planning significant investment in carbon reduction measures and needed a method to assist scheme evaluation and verification. The purchase of the B620 camera came about after Hunt had seen the benefits FLIR thermal imaging had offered a colleague.
Hunt is responsible for collating and analysing energy data from council buildings with a view to identifying energy saving measures which can be used to lower Camden Council’s emissions – which in turn will also cut costs. Therefore, the B620 has become an essential part of Hunt’s work.
He said, “It allows me to conduct this detection work while auditing our building portfolio. I can see any anomalies quickly, easily and safely. And for these reasons we chose the best possible camera for the money that was budgeted to obtain the quality and functionality needed.”
Thermal imaging in action
The FLIR B620 has a 640 x 480 pixel detector which provides up to 307,000 measurement points, and a resolution that is particularly important in the building industry as it allows smaller targets to be spotted and measured accurately at greater distances. The camera’s field of view is also large and therefore fewer images need to be taken. On average 25% fewer images are required on a typical survey, allowing the camera user to get the job done quicker and more efficiently.
Hunt continued, “It produces crisp and clean images which lower specification models can’t match. The difference in quality is amazing.” The camera’s quick refresh rate was also a factor in its purchase as was the viewfinder’s elimination of glare in sunny conditions.
As yet the camera has made no startling discoveries, however, its use has led to the introduction of a new tagging system, which is in effect a calling card that enables the authority’s maintenance department and contractors to pinpoint the problems identified by the camera.
The tags, which have received an extremely positive reaction, were created and designed by Camden Council and are totally biodegradable and have a visual element that highlights the exact position of the area surveyed through the camera.
“The tags help raise awareness with the building users too as they contain the clear message ‘this area has been thermal imaged’ and on the reverse it’s explained that we’ve identified that this area could be more energy efficient,” said Hunt.
The next goal for Hunt is to take advantage of the dedicated software that is available for the FLIR B620. FLIR BuildIR visualises and quantifies building related problems such as structural and insulation defects, thermal bridges and moisture ingress. It includes ten pre-designed report templates to enable easier report creation.
Of particular benefit to Camden is the energy cost comparison report that allows the easy calculation of achievable cost savings when the identified structural problems are fixed. FLIR BuildIR also includes a humidity report for calculating dew points and an air tightness report.
Whilst the principal use for Camden Council’s FLIR B620 is in the identification of energy management measures in authority owned buildings, it can potentially be used in a wider range of applications. For example, it has recently been used to check insulation consistency after a major work programme to install cavity wall insulation in private dwellings in Camden.
The camera is also helping in preventive maintenance work, for example, in applications such as identifying heating mains leaks. As Hunt’s familiarity and experience with the camera increases so does the scope of his investigations, resulting in further cost benefits to the Council.