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Student Focus There's more to the sky than meets the eye

Sara Fortin

Sara Fortin

Photos that Make Cents

The black and white photographs that University of Maine civil engineering undergraduate Sara Fortin takes may be grainy and the subjects – campus buildings – sometimes barely recognizable, but the information she’s gathering is keeping money from slipping through the cracks.

Using a thermal imaging camera, Fortin is able to see where heat is leaking from the 200 buildings on campus. White radiating from a building means heat loss; black represents cold.

“I’m really interested in green technology, energy efficiency and the environmental aspects of civil engineering,” says Fortin, who took the suggestion of her brother, a recent UMaine physics graduate, and asked physics professor Tom Hess if he had any projects for her work-study job.

Fortin, who is from Madawaska, Maine, hopes to use this energy auditing experience to get a job in a similar field when she graduates.

“The university has a lot of places where we can save energy, and we were thinking of some ways to measure where the worst heat leaks are on campus,” Hess says.

The thermal imaging camera records video of the buildings, which Fortin then uses to capture still snapshots that show where heat loss occurs. Fortin’s data will be made available to UMaine Facilities Management for planning purposes.

“We pretty much are just looking at the windows and foundation where heat’s coming through,” she says. “I focus mainly on the windows, because that’s something that’s easily fixed by installing newer windows, adding storm windows, putting up plastic or caulking.”

Fortin has found that newer campus buildings are reasonably efficient, but some older facilities could use more roof insulation and window upgrades.

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May/June 2009

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