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Innovation Delivers Confidence to Homeowners

Innovation Delivers Confidence to Homeowners

It may look like a child’s Meccano creation but the latest innovation being used to assess foundation damage is proving to be of monumental value to the accuracy of information used to assess the extent of work required to repair hundreds of Christchurch homes damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.

Fondly known as ROVER, this small remote controlled car is the result of collaboration between a Masters student of Canterbury University’s Engineering Department and Arrow International and Southern Response.

ROVER is a radio controlled, six wheeled, multi terrain miniature vehicle fitted with high definition cameras, microphone and LED lighting banks to easily survey the area under houses with suspended timber floors and a concrete perimeter. The area under these types of houses is proving difficult to assess due to liquefaction and the obstruction of timber bearers, which have fallen away from the main support.

Matt Tipa, Technical Manager at Arrow International assigned to the Southern Response project, says it’s like having a set of eyes under the floor.

“The beauty is that it provides us with truly accurate information about the extent and nature of damage to foundation works. We’re then able to assess the extent of the repairs required and the most suitable solution for those repairs.

“Scoping foundation repair work on these types of properties is a real challenge and before ROVER we’ve had to rely on what we can see from above the ground coupled with knowledge built up through years of experience.”

Arrow began the search for something like ROVER last year and discovered the University of Canterbury had begun some development work on a small remote controlled camera.

“It was evident from the very first prototype that the concept and technology being developed by the team at the Engineering School was well worth trialling on real properties”, says Tipa.

An initial trial programme was launched and funded by Southern Response to test the prototype to assess the value of the information obtained. Southern Response has committed to the production of a second ROVER, expected to be in operation shortly.

Currently 100 properties have been surveyed with one ROVER. It is anticipated that all ROVER investigations on properties whose earthquake related claims are with Southern Response will be completed before the end of 2014. A key benefit of using ROVER is improved efficiency in the assessment process, minimising delays for construction. As well as this, cost savings for the repair programme have been significant.

News of the innovation and what it means for other challenges in the construction sector has already spread across the Tasman. Building authorities in Australia have expressed interest in applying Rover as a solution to the identification of termite damage to housing foundations.

The next generation of ROVER is already under development.


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