3D Visualization of thermal resistance and condensation problems using infrared thermography for building energy diagnostics

Youngjib Ham, Mani Golparvar-Fard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Building deteriorations instigated by material degradations or moisture intrusions are the primary causes for energy inefficiency in many existing buildings. For choosing appropriate retrofits, it is important to carefully diagnose and analyze building areas in need of improvements. In addition to reliable sensing and analysis of as-is energy performance, an intuitive recording and visualization of energy diagnostic outcomes are also critical to effectively illustrate the as-is building conditions to homeowners during retrofit decision-making processes. Method: Toward this goal, this paper presents a thermography-based method to visualize the actual thermal resistance and condensation problems in 3D while taking static occlusions into account. First, several overlapping digital and thermal images are collected from the building areas under inspection. Using a computer vision method– consisting of image-based 3D point cloud and mesh modeling algorithmsactual 3D spatio-thermal actual 3D spatio-thermal models are generated where surface temperature can be queried at the level of 3D points. Based on the resulting 3D spatio-thermal models and by measuring the reflected and dew point temperatures, the actual R-values of building assemblies are calculated, and the condensation issues are analyzed. Taking static occlusions into account, (1) the distribution of the actual thermal resistance over each building assembly, (2) the detected building areas with condensation problems, and (3) the corresponding geometrical and thermal characteristics are jointly visualized within a 3D environment. Results: To validate the method and investigate the perceived benefits, four experiments have been conducted in existing buildings. Surveys are also conducted by professional energy auditors. The proposed method provides 3D visual representation of the actual thermal resistance distributions and building areas associated with condensation issues at the level of 3D points across geometrical forms while taking static occlusions into account. Conclusions: The experimental results and the feedback received from the professionals show the promise of the proposed method in facilitating systematic post-examination of building deteriorations and support retrofit decision-makings. Ultimately, converting surface temperature data obtained from an IR camera into 3D visualization of energy performance metrics and possible condensation problems enables practitioners to better understand the as-is building conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalVisualization in Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Building condensation problem
  • Building condition assessment
  • Building energy diagnostics
  • Image-based 3D Reconstruction
  • Thermal resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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