Aerial Survey of the Coupland Buildings

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester owns and manages many historic listed buildings and these include a notable collection on Coupland Street, where SUAVE was recently asked to conduct an extensive roof survey. Coupland 3, for example, was built in 1891 as part of the School of Medicine and, today, it’s a striking structure of brickwork, decorative masonry and spires.

SUAVE was given the task of assessing the state of the various buildings’ roofs, chimneys and spires in order to evaluate the need and prioritisation of maintenance work. Recognising that a UAV-based inspection could deliver high quality results quickly, safely and cost-effectively, SUAVE was asked to produce high resolution photographs, together with point cloud data from which a 3D ‘wire frame’ model could be developed.

The survey was conducted over a series of four visits in January and February 2016. The work was challenging: weather conditions were often poor, so swift responsiveness was essential. Moreover, some of the roofs were highly complex, featuring a maze-like layout of ridges, pitches, valleys, spires and upstands. This demanded careful planning, good spatial awareness and skilful piloting throughout. Nevertheless, SUAVE safely secured the necessary records and was able to give the University a detailed insight into the condition of the various building components.

The resulting 3D model, which was used to generate AutoCAD / Autodesk line drawings and may be plugged into Building Information Modelling (BIM) software, will be particularly valuable for any contractors and architects working on the buildings in future. In the immediate term, it will inform decisions about scheduling maintenance works and what specialist materials will be required for them. In the longer term, it will serve as an accurate record of the buildings’ condition and a useful ‘benchmarking’ tool.

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