Assessing the Value of Aerial Thermographic Surveys

Exploring the potential for aerial thermographic surveys to improve sustainable energy use

Project duration: January 2004 to March 2004

This project aimed to explore the potential for using aerial thermographic surveys to improve sustainable energy use in buildings.

Birmingham City Council commissioned an aerial thermographic survey of the entire city in March 2002, but had not yet made significant use of the information gathered. The aims of this project were to explore the potential for making more use of the study and to research the use of aerial thermographic studies in other areas of the country and their applicability to improving sustainable energy use in buildings.

The study involved desk-based research into uses of aerial thermographic imaging (particularly in combination with geographical information systems — GIS) and interviews and correspondence with specific local authority case studies identified in that research (Aberdeen City Council, Chester City Council and the Nottingham Energy Partnership). It also explored ways of making better use of Birmingham’s thermographic dataset to raise the profile of affordable warmth and energy-saving opportunities.

The study was completed in March 2004. You can download a copy by clicking here.

The study report was a critical analysis of the value of aerial thermographic surveys, identifying a number of lessons for those considering such surveys:

Positive lessons:

  • Thermographic images of their homes showing high heat loss are motivating to householders to take action to improve insulation levels.
  • The provision of searchable web-based access to the survey images is a potentially powerful tool for gaining householder attention.
  • A thermographic survey can be used to help identify areas of housing and specific homes which demonstrate relatively high heat loss for targeting grant assistance, particularly when combined with existing data and knowledge within the council.

Salutary lessons:

  • It is important to the successful use of the thermographic survey to have established a clear purpose for the data at the outset.
  • Follow-up targeting must be wary of the ‘false negative’ since those showing no heat loss may actually be cold rather than well-insulated. This limits the value of the thermographic data for finding the ‘cold fuel poor’.
  • There may be considerable additional costs to build targeted marketing programmes using the thermographic images. These should be weighed up against the costs and benefits of more simple marketing approaches to achieve the same ends (e.g. better insulated homes).

The report also identified some potential opportunities for Birmingham City Council to ‘add value’ to its thermographic dataset, having already invested in the survey. Click the link on the top right to download the report.


*photo © Bluesky International Limited

For further information contact:

Simon Roberts OBE | 0117 934 1441

Relevant downloads and links:
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