Infrared thermal imaging (thermography) when combined with SketchUp’s 3D models has great potential to interactively visualize complex building science issues like heat loss, insulation, moisture leaks, and more. Being able to view 3D models instead of just 2D images makes it possible to see effects on a building’s scale. All you need (beyond your SketchUp modeling abilities) is a thermal imaging camera (e.g. the FLIR ONE which is not too expensive). In this video I show you how you can take appropriate thermography images and then apply those to your model.

I actually wrote about this technique a while ago in a blog post and a conference paper. Follow the link at the bottom of this post to learn more about the technique and to see more models. There are even some sample images for download in case you want to try this yourself.

My finished thermography model of the John W. Olver Design Building at UMass Amherst is available on the 3D Warehouse and is also embedded below. Just click the image to start the 3D viewer:


You can even fabricate these models. Just use my Unwrap and Flatten Faces Extension to flatten the model in parts, print this in color and then glue it together. You can see an example in Figure 1.6 in my book.


I mention emissivity in the video because the John W. Olver Design Building features a metal panel wall system and has lots of window glass. As discussed e.g. here you cannot get a good temperature reading on those surfaces using thermography. You are mainly measuring a reflected temperature. The only siding materials that have a high-enough emissivity are the concrete and masonry walls at the base of this building.

Sample Files

The ZIP file linked from the button below contains a few of the raw thermography files. Feel free to use those to experiment with this technique.

Tutorial Video


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