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Thermographic surveying of the built environment in the territory of the municipality

Municipalities have an opportunity to enable large-scale energy efficiency efforts in the territory under their responsibility, both by prioritising their own efforts and through the action of the citizens and businesses living and operating in the area.

One of the ways to enable these improvements is to understand how the built environment is a source of energy loss and where energy efficiency solutions need to be deployed as a priority. Thermography is a tool that enables the collection of data at various scales and provides visual information on ‘hotspots’ of heat radiation, highlighting potential inefficiencies.

Current thermographic methods use infrared cameras to record the differences in heat radiated by different landscape features, such as buildings, paved roads (covering piping) and light fixtures. The images produced by the infrared cameras provide a picture of temperature differences against the background.

Thermographic data can be collected using different methods. The main surveying methods are land-based or aerial thermography. After the infrared camera images are collected, the data is processed to produce images of buildings with a colour scale to illustrate heat loss. When image capture is aerial, the data can be superimposed on a map of the territory and the main output will then be (literally, in this case) a ‘heat map’ of a geographical area where the locations of heat loss can be visualised instantly.

While individuals and businesses can invest in the thermal photography of their own building to audit their insulation, from a municipality’s perspective, aerial thermography will provide an overview of the whole territory and achieve economies of scale by providing data for a whole town and enabling comparisons between different areas in the same territory.

Thermography will not improve environmental performance in itself; it is only the start, as the real benefits will come from action taken both at the local government and individual level to tackle the energy efficiency issues highlighted by the survey. The obtained data can be used as a basis for:

- diagnosis of energy efficiency/insulation of public buildings 

- diagnosis of the insulation of district heating and cooling networks 

- diagnosis of the efficiency of street lighting 

- awareness raising campaigns

- communication on the municipality’s broader efforts in terms of energy efficiency

- energy efficiency actions to tackle the issues highlighted by the thermography

- identifying and addressing risks of fuel poverty.

Within a thermographic survey project, a key phase is to define a communication and information strategy to share the results as this will leverage individuals and businesses to deliver the largest gains in terms of energy efficiency.

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