October 31, 2017

Building Thermography Qualifications and Certification

What type of training, certification and qualifications should a building thermographer have?

Most thermography is unregulated!  

That is the ugly truth. For almost all thermographic work in buildings, anybody can beg, steal, borrow  or hire a camera and take an image or two. However as may people find out, there is great deal of skill and knowledge required to be successful inspecting buildings in infrared.

It is therefore important before commissioning a survey to undertake a little due-diligence to ensure you will receive a competent and professional service.  What does this entail? We recommend that you, of course, consider qualifications and certifications. But more importantly look at prior experience of delivering what you need. Ask lots of questions and expect to be asked even more. Why is this? Because almost every situation is different and the devil will be in the detail on what can be done, and how to do it.

BREEAM Thermography Regulations

The exception where specific certification is required and must be demonstrated relates to BREEAM thermographic surveys.  These require a minimum Level 2/Category 2 certification which should be verified to “PCN” level by passing examinations in Civil Thermography set by BINDT (the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing) in accordance with ISO 18436-7. To achieve Category/Level 2 PCN thermography certification requires approved training and stringent examination by BINDT and a minimum of 1200 hours hands-on experience. This is a good guide to a basic level of professional competence as long as it is backed up with building specific thermography training.. Note that a Level 1 thermographer is not permitted under ISO 18436-7 to conduct surveys unless working under the direction of a Level 2 and in any case cannot provide analysis or recommendations or sign-off a report without the approval of  a Level 2.

ISO 18437-7 Qualification and Assessment of Thermographers

This is the international standard covering qualification and assessment of thermographers. It’s actual title is “Condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines – Requirements for qualification and assessment of personnel – Part 7: Thermography”.  You might note straight away this references machines and not buildings! And therein lies the problem that existing standards do not really cover thermographic building assessment.

Other certification schemes are available such as ASNT certification guideline SNT-TC-1A which is a structured and well respected certification.But again, it is not building specific.

How to Recognise a Competent Building Thermographer

Key areas of knowledge for a building thermographer include:

  1. How to plan and prepare for a survey.

    • The required environmental conditions inside and out for the specific goals of the survey. We do not live in a perfect world: when are the conditions “good enough” and when should the survey be re-scheduled.
    • The specification of equipment required for the job in hand. What resolution is required? Which lens type will give best results? Is the camera sensitive enough and accurate enough? How can measurement errors be minimised?
    • Knowledge of construction types and materials and what this means for thermography – it can have a huge effect.
    • You as a client do not need to understand all this, but you should make sure you are confident your chosen building thermographer does!  Does he/she ask sensible questions to understand and answer all the above areas?  Does he demonstrate an appropriate level of confidence and advise you what cannot be done as well as what can be done?
  2. How to safely and efficiently conduct the survey

    • Health and safety considerations. Has a risk assessment been carried out? Is the thermographer independently vetted for health and safety by an organisation such as CHAS or Constructionline?
    • Knowledge and experience in how to handle the camera properly to actually capture good images.
    • the associated environmental and technical data the thermographer must gather in order to make a valid analysis and recommendations.
  3. How to analyse and report.

    • How to interpret the infrared images and associated data keeping in mind the science of infrared and basic physics of buildings and heat flow
    • Professional reporting standards

Without appropriate training it is pretty tough to do all the above.

So how to recognise a competent thermographer?

  • Is he/she certified to a Level 2 or higher? If not do they have access or are they supervised by a Level 2 or 3? Can they prove it?
  • Can they demonstrate building specific training and experience?
  • Do they use professional, calibrated equipment? The minimum entry point for a professional thermographer is a 320×240 resolution camera – most consultants use a 640×480 camera with 4x more pixels per image to ensure adequate analysis.
  • Do they have adequate public liability insurance? Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
  • Do they ask many questions about the specifics of the survey in question?
  • Can they explain to you in words you can understand what needs to be done and why? (Bamboozling people with pseudo-science is not usually a good sign!)
  • The ultimate test is to request a similar/comparable survey report conducted and written by whoever will conduct your survey.

ScanTherm’s training and experience is outlined on the About Us page.