Fun With Infrared Thermography

In front of Meyerson Hall

In front of Meyerson Hall

MEBD class photo from Arch754 Performance Design Workshop a few weeks ago. We had the opportunity to get our hands on a Fluke IR thermal camera and take a look at buildings on campus. Specifically we were looking at potential points of weakness in the envelope (windows, corners and edges, etc.), and just how facades perform in general thermally. I’ve also had some experience with the IR camera for HSPV516 Building Diagnostics. The camera belongs to the facilities department at UPenn, and they typically use it to quickly identify overheating transformers, fuses, and the like.

I won’t say where I am in the lineup, but it should be pretty obvious.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here is a closeup of the device, produced by Fluke, that we were using.


Letting Context Speak for Itself

Blocked Downspout

I found myself token-less and running late for a meeting the other day, and so forced to walk I happened across this site, which stopped me inquisitively and delightfully in my tracks. Can you spot the potential building diagnostics nightmare? I couldn’t resist formulating a narrative in my head about how this happened and more importantly how this might be affecting the building. A wider angle of this photo would show that this location appears to be the shortest distance from the Subway loading dock/area to the street curb. Why walk more than you have to, right? Rain and snow melt naturally find their way down the downspout, efficiently convert their potential energy to kinetic, and shoot straight into the back of that trash can wheel (about 2″ away). The water splashes, forms small droplets, which freeze on contact with the metal downspout effectively sealing it. Aside from the localized moisture source potentially leading to moisture migrating into the wall at grade or below, it remains to be seen what kind of damage can be incurred as a result: added weight on the fragile downspout fasteners leading to detachment? Added weight of the ice pulling the downspout free of its connection with the gutter at roof level? Imagine if the whole wasn’t there, and the entire downspout filled with ice–it could easily detach with the weight of several hundred pounds of ice and harm or seriously injure passersby. Or even simply sealing the garbage can lid shut with ice, offering the garbage man the little-needed motivation to not take out the garbage? Any others?

The most powerful tool you have in diagnosing any problem is observation, taking in the ‘lay of the land.’ Blame is typically and generously applied to the architect, the engineer, the contractor, etc. However, user error can often be the most impacting factor when it comes to the degradation of buildings. Water is the moist dangerous element to buildings, it will ultimately always find a way in or around an obstacle. The question here is, in suite with the unfolding scene above, is the whole intentional? Could very easily see a building maintenance person stabbing the whole rather than freeing the downspout of ice (in defense of building maintenance men, is most likely is unintentional).

Lesson here? Walk every now and then, you might learn something. And keep your eyes ever-peeled.



I have to say, during my five years in undergrad in architecture school and the two years after that working in the practice, triangulating field drawings was something I had always heard about but never actually did. First year undergrad students at IIT had the opportunity of taking an actual surveying class in the school of civil engineering (a class I absolutely regretted not taking), but alas…

Well, I was lucky enough to get a chance to learn how to triangulate in theory and in practice for a project I am working on in documentation (HSPV 601: Research, Recording, and Interpretation II). The task is to essentially measure, document, and recreate in CAD the courtyard between Meyerson Hall and the Fisher Fine Arts Library ( 39°57’6.93″N  75°11’34.25″W).Meyerson Courtyard

And despite my skepticism of achieving acceptable accuracy pulling tape in excess of 100’+, the drawing came out quite accurate (within 3/16″).

It made for quite an interesting drawing overlay as well.

courtyard cad

Society Hill Head House

Took some photos of the headhouse on 2nd/south for documentation class. I ended up meeting the current owners and was given access to the attic where the original clock mechanism (unfortunately, currently not functional) and all the way up to the bell tower as well. I was pretty lucky.

Graduate Research Position

I was lucky enough this semester to be offered a graduate research position by Professor Michael Henry, who teaches the building pathology and diagnostics courses in the historic preservation program.

It is a great honor and I’m incredibly excited to be engaging in research on Thomas Jefferson’s design of Monticello and the features and details that make it one of the earliest milestones in passive architectural design–still studied as an example of how to incorporate passive natural ventilation and daylighting into buildings today.

Specifically, I’ll be pouring over original documents, drawings, and correspondence to establish a state of the art at the time Jefferson made his preliminary designs and compare Monticello to other notable projects in the area at this time, such as James Madison’s Montpelier.

Only a few weeks into it, but I am already deep into the research and making some extraordinary finds and connections. I’m looking forward to what a semester’s worth of research will produce. If time permits, the research may culminate into a CFD analysis model to investigate the findings further and to see perhaps how some of Jefferson’s earlier designs might have fared compared to the final.

Weather vane at Monticello that connected to a compass rose on the interior indicating wind direction–a clear indication of Jefferson’s interest in natural ventilation. source: