Building owners urged to use drones for facade inspections as new BCA guidelines roll out, Housing News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – With at least 30,000 buildings due to be inspected over the next seven years under new guidelines from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), facade inspectors have been urged to use drone technology to help make the job.

From the start of next year, facade checks will have to be carried out every seven years for structures over 13 m in height and over 20 years old. The new periodic facade inspection regime (PFI) was announced by the BCA on Thursday, October 21.

Current guidelines state that these inspections are carried out at the discretion of the owner or management of a building. Residential and temporary structures are exempt.

According to Kabi Subramaniam, a leader in asset services at building consultancy Arup Singapore, these inspections are usually done manually from a construction gondola suspended from the side of the building.

“The way we would first identify any exterior faults or defects would be through a visual inspection from the ground or from what the customer reported to us, then use a gondola to take a closer look … This process takes obviously more time. and does not allow us to be very thorough in the inspection of the building, ”he added.

This gap has been filled with the use of drones since 2015.

“A drone will allow a closer visual inspection as well as better coverage of the entire structure,” said Mr. Subramaniam.

There are time and labor savings. Using a gondola means that checks can only be done along one vertical section of the building at a time. There is also an increase in safety by reducing the need to work from a gondola.

Many more data points can be collected using drones, which have cameras capable of recording 4K resolution video and photos up to 20 megapixels, said Justin Chan of Avetics Global, who provides drone services for industrial and commercial applications.

He added that the images can be transmitted to artificial intelligence software to detect signs of deterioration on the facade.

Responding to concerns about the privacy of building occupants, he said, “Our software is also capable of automatically detecting and scrambling the faces and identity of anyone who could be accidentally recorded.”

Under the PFI guidelines, facade inspections must be carried out by a competent person such as an engineer or architect who has obtained a certificate in facade inspection, and may be assisted by a designated facade inspector.

The qualification has been developed by the BCA in collaboration with the Institution of Engineers Singapore and the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore and will help complement the pool of qualified personnel.

As of September, there were 149 competent people and 140 facade inspectors registered with the BCA.

The BCA announced a set of technical guidelines on the use of drones for building inspections in November last year.

Practices such as giving at least three days’ notice with the details of the inspection to building occupants and the proper handling of images or video recordings have been detailed, as well as the implementation of systems and processes for prevent unauthorized recording of images.

About Ethel Nester

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