BUILDING INSPECTION, MAINTENANCE
AND FACILITY MANAGEMENT
of Building Facades
How might we efficiently conduct close-up inspection of building facades to detect facade deterioration early?
Challenge Statement Owner
Background and Current Practice
A facade is an exterior side of a building comprising materials and connections. In response to ageing buildings and increasingly complex facade designs, a Periodic Facade Inspection (PFI) regime will soon be made mandatory to facilitate the early detection of facade deterioration and allow defects to be rectified in a timely manner. Under the PFI regime, the building owner has to engage a Competent Person (CP) to identify areas of problematic facades and carry out full visual and close-up inspection (i.e. involving physical contact with the facade) of the facade condition.
As facades can come in different forms (including engineering facades like curtain walls and cladding, and architectural finishes like plaster and tiles), different inspection methods are needed to accurately assess the facades’ condition.
The use of cladding can be seen on commercial, office and industrial developments. Commonly-used materials for claddings are metal, stone and board materials.
The fixings or connections of the cladding to the main structural framing are mostly concealed by the facade barrier.
Current methods for the close-up inspection of cladding facade are inefficient and may compromise the safety and performance of the cladding, such as the dismantling and subsequent reinstallation of the cladding panel after inspection and the use of borescopes.
Plaster and Wall Tiles Facades
Plaster facades are found on almost all Housing Development Board (HDB) housing estates, a majority of private residential buildings, and on several non-residential buildings. Tiles are another type of facade that can be found on older buildings locally.
Currently, the close-up inspection of plaster and wall tiles facades involves manual tapping inspection, which is laborious, time consuming and depends largely on the expertise and experience of the inspectors.
Opportunities and Key Challenges
Inspection technologies, such as mmWave and thermography technologies, could perform the inspection in a non-destructive testing manner and gather information on the surface and underlying defects. For cladding facades, these technologies would eliminate the need to dismantle facade panels or carry out activities that could affect structural integrity.
For cladding facades, the following defects are important to be identified:
Dislodgement of panels
Looseness or cracking of the elements
For plaster and wall tiles facades, the following defects are important to be identified:
Additionally, we are able to omit the usage of height-access equipment, if the inspection technologies and cameras are adapted to a form that can be fitted and integrated into drones, pulley or wall-climbing systems. The solution could quickly inspect a large surface to identify areas with a higher risk of failure (such as loose panels) and highlight the risky areas to CP for further investigation.
The solution streamlines the inspection of the building facades, so that a thorough inspection can be done with minimal expense of manpower and time. Ultimately, the solution supports the early detection of facade deterioration, so that the defects are rectified in a timely manner.