The glass curtain wall system is an architectural, functional innovation where failures of insulation systems create areas of reduced resistance to heat transfer—thermal bridges—during a building’s operational lifetime. These failures enable energy flows that trigger unanticipated temperature changes and increased energy consumption, ultimately damaging the façade structure and directly impacting occupants. Our study aims to design and test an innovative method for rapidly identifying thermal bridges in façade systems, with minimum or no occupant disturbance. The research focus is in the classification of damage as either a local failure or as being related to a poor systematic construction/assembly. A nontraditional approach is adopted to survey an entire fully operational building using infrared thermography and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) using a noncontact infrared camera mounted on and operated from the UAV. The system records the emissivity of the façade materials and calculates the thermal radiation to estimate localized temperatures. The system records thermal radiation readings which are analyzed using graphs to be compared with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards, under ideal conditions using the THERM software. The results enable discussion relating to the most common failure areas for existing structures, facilitating the identification of focus areas for the improvement of construction methods through improved processes.
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