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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CADMIUM in the HOME
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CELL PHONE RADIATION
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSRE
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS at BUILDINGS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR TILE ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEGIONELLA LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MSDS MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PVC - VINYL BUILDING PRODUCTS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
This article series aids building inspectors & building failure investigators & indoor environmental investigators with access to tools & methods useful across a range of disciplines ranging from forensic engineering & building inspections types of laboratory test methods and forensic microscopy.
While some of the forensic methods and microchemistry used in these techniques have their origins in criminal forensic investigative methods, our focus is not on crime but on buildings and the indoor environment.
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The detection diagnosis, and identification of the cause, effects, and thus possible remedy of building defects or failures and of building-related environmental complaints or hazards using physical evidence and scientifically and mathematically sound methods, guided by a sufficiently-broad investigation scope as to reasonably-assure that key factors are not excluded.
The terms forensic and science imply the forming of opinions through a disciplined approach rather than just speculation. This approach to building investigation includes the disciplined professions such as architecture, engineering, chemistry, professional home inspection, as well as science, mathematics, and forensic microscopy but also the wealth of diagnostic information arising from the various building trades.
Experienced building failure and indoor environmental complaint investigators, and even home inspectors and contractors of more humble scope are likely to agree that in any such investigation (why did the foundation crack, why did one section of my roof blow off, why does my house smell, why is my basement wet, why does my heat keep going off) the most effective forensic investigation approach will combine at least the following:
Client & site information: the building forensic investigator conducts a careful interview of the building owners, occupants, or clients to understand the concern or complaint, and to consider, without pre-determined prejudice or conclusion, the observations of the client or others. Checklists, data logs, and similar documents can assist in this step.
Building construction materials, site conditions, and event history: by visual inspection and where available consultation of appropriate documentation, the building investigator considers the individual and the interrelated effects of the building's materials, site, exposure, architecture, and maintenance history.
For cases in which the known problem is not patently obvious, or where the investigator is open to discovery of less evident but important contributors to a building failure or environmental complaint, this process, especially when informed by information about the site & from client above, can identify targets for more in-depth or perhaps invasive inspection and testing.
Building & environmental physical measurements & tests where appropriate, such as tests of materials, contents, or samples that are conducted to identify contaminants, to study material failures, etc. However reliance on blind tests alone, without the other steps above, is likely to give unreliable results.
Diagnosis & recommendations: based on all of the information gathered, the forensic investigator constructs, tests, documents, and then provides a reasoned explanation of the cause, effect, and possibly the recommended remedy for the building or building environment concern under investigation.
Other Definitions of Forensic Investigation
As will be readily evident from formal definitions of fields of non-criminal-related or police forensic investigation work given below, the definition of forensic science and building investigation are somewhat confusing, sometimes contradictory, and often narrowly drawn to legal concerns or to confine its scope to performance within a specific profession. This narrowing is necessary for certain fields of investigation, particularly legal work. The more narrow definitions below also appear to reflect the protection of the turf of some practitioners.
The application of scientific knowledge and methodology to legal problems and criminal investigations. - http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/ 11/15/2013
The presentation of spatial analysis within the contemporary legal and political forums. Their practice combines the principles of property surveying, structural engineering, the physics of blast forces and the chemistry of composite materials. The project undertakes research that maps, images, and models sites of violence within the framework of humanitarian law and human rights. - composite adapted from Wikipedia 11/14/13 & the Centre for Research Architecture, Department of Visual Cultures, U.K., http://www.forensic-architecture.org/ 11/14/2013
The investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. - Wikipedia 11/14/2013
The application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution. - National Academy of Forensic Engineers - NAFE: 1991
Forensic Building Science & Investigation
The investigation, resolution and prevention of construction related defects and ensuing damage. - example drawn from a private engineering firm, http://forensicbuilding.com/ 11/14/2013
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Articles & Products
Photo at left, demonstrating thermal imaging by Paul Probett, is discussed at THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
Forensic Science & Forensic Engineering
Home Inspection Education
InspectAPedia is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information provided free to the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website. We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles. Working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.
Opinions here are the responsibility of the author. Most of this material has been subject to ongoing peer review but is without any professional engineering analysis. Building inspections may include the discovery of defects involving life, safety, and significant costs. Building inspectors who are not both qualified and certain of the authoritative basis of their conclusions should obtain their own expert advice from qualified experts.
This work is also based on the author's construction & inspection experience, training, research, and survey of material from ASHI, and from N. Becker, R. Burgess, J. Bower, D. Breyer, A. Carson, J. Cox, A. Daniel, M. Lennon, R. Peterson, J. Prendergast, W. Ransom, D. Rathburn, E. Rawlins, E. Seaquist, and D. Wickersheimer. Some useful citations are in the article above and at REFERENCES.
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