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School of the Built Environment
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
Condition assessment and health monitoring (CAHM) of built assets, requires effective and continuous monitoring of any changes to the material and/or geometric properties of the assets in order to detect any early signs of defects or damage and act on time. Most of the traditional CAHM techniques, however, depend on manual labour despite that, in some cases, the inspection environment can be unsafe and could lead to low efficiency or miss-judgement of the severity of the defect. In recent years, computer vision techniques have been proposed as an automated alternative to the traditional CAHM techniques as methods for extracting and analysing feature-related information from asset images and videos. Such methods have proven to be robust and effective solutions, complementary to current time-consuming and unreliable manual observational practices. This work is concerned with the development of a deep learning-based smartphone App which allows real-time detection of four types of defects in buildings namely; cracks, mould, stain, and paint deterioration. Since smartphones are widely available and equipped with high-resolution cameras, this application can offer a practical, low-cost solution for condition assessment procedures of built assets. The obtained results are promising and support the feasibility and effectiveness of the approach to identify and classify various types of building defects.
In the field of supervised machine learning, the quality of a classifier model is directly correlated with the quality of the data that is used to train the model. The presence of unwanted outliers in the data could significantly reduce the accuracy of a model or even worse, result in a biased model leading to an inaccurate classification. Identifying the presence of outliers and eliminating them is, therefore, crucial for building good quality training datasets. Pre-processing procedures for dealing with missing and outlier data, commonly known as feature engineering, are standard practice in machine learning problems. They help to make better assumptions about the data and also prepare datasets in a way that best expose the underlying problem to the machine learning algorithms. In this work, we propose a multistage method for detecting and removing outliers in high-dimensional data. Our proposed method is based on utilising a technique called t-distributed stochastic neighbour embedding (t-SNE) to reduce high-dimensional map of features into a lower, 2-dimensional, probability density distribution and then use a simple descriptive statistical method called interquartile range (IQR) to identifying any outlier values from the density distribution of the features. t-SNE It is a machine learning algorithm and a nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique well-suited for embedding high-dimensional data for visualisation in a low-dimensional space of two or three dimensions. We applied this method on a dataset containing images for training a convolutional neural network model (ConvNet) for an image classification problem. The dataset contains four different classes of images: three classes contains defects in construction (mould, stain, and paint deterioration) and a no-defect class (normal). We used the transfer learning technique to modify a pre-trained VGG-16 model. We used this model as a feature extractor and as a benchmark to evaluate our method. We have shown that when using this method, we can identify and remove the outlier images in the dataset. After removing the outlier images from the dataset and re-training the VGG-16 model, the results have also shown that the accuracy of the classification has significantly improved and the number of misclassified cases has also dropped. While many feature engineering techniques for handling missing and outlier data are common in predictive machine learning problems involving numerical or categorical data, there is little work on developing techniques for handling outliers in high-dimensional data which can be used to improve the quality of machine learning problems involving images such as ConvNet models for image classification and object detection problems.
Clients are increasingly looking for fast and effective means to quickly and frequently survey and communicate the condition of their buildings so that essential repairs and maintenance work can be done in a proactive and timely manner before it becomes too dangerous and expensive. Traditional methods for this type of work commonly comprise of engaging building surveyors to undertake a condition assessment which involves a lengthy site inspection to produce a systematic recording of the physical condition of the building elements, including cost estimates of immediate and projected long-term costs of renewal, repair and maintenance of the building. Current asset condition assessment procedures are extensively time consuming, laborious, and expensive and pose health and safety threats to surveyors, particularly at height and roof levels which are difficult to access. This paper aims at evaluating the application of convolutional neural networks (CNN) towards an automated detection and localisation of key building defects, e.g., mould, deterioration, and stain, from images. The proposed model is based on pre-trained CNN classifier of VGG-16 (later compaired with ResNet-50, and Inception models), with class activation mapping (CAM) for object localisation. The challenges and limitations of the model in real-life applications have been identified. The proposed model has proven to be robust and able to accurately detect and localise building defects. The approach is being developed with the potential to scale-up and further advance to support automated detection of defects and deterioration of buildings in real-time using mobile devices and drones.