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Building Pathologist

Dr. Zahir discusses the role of a building pathologist, that engages in research on the science of building defects.
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© Universiti Malaya

A building pathologist works to identify the reasons why certain parts or elements of a building fail and will be able to specify the correct remedial measure to reinstate those elements or parts of a building.

The expertise rests generally in the building surveying profession, where building pathology is a subject of study for their professional training at university. The building pathology modules explore building materials and systems and the failure mechanisms, as well as the suitable repair options that can prolong the life of the materials and systems in question.

In the medical context, where the terminology is more widely used, pathology is the study of diseases to uncover their causes and prescribe treatment.

A competent building pathologist is skilled at investigating the causes of defects based on sound scientific principles, and has a clear understanding of building construction methods and their potential risks. This is because the way a building is constructed and the environment it reacts with, holds the key to how defects can occur.

A building pathologist is able to follow the trail of failure right to its original cause which may be hidden from view and comes from an unlikely source within a separate part of the building altogether. This skill is amassed through studying various cases of defects, from scientific knowledge of materials and their interaction with the environment, and from years of experience surveying and solving building defects problems.

They also have in-depth knowledge of building repair strategies and options that is both suitable for old and listed heritage building as well as new and modern buildings constructed with the latest technologies and space-age materials. Their knowledge is invaluable to specify the correct remedial work, suitable in different contexts, situations, climatic conditions and cost-effective for the client.

The expert opinions of building pathologists are used in litigation, to assist the judge in arriving at the correct judgement that will be fair to all parties. An expert building pathologist can suggest the best practice for remedial work and helps the remedial contractors to carry out repair works of high quality and fit for purpose.

© Universiti Malaya
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Building Pathology: The Science Behind Why Buildings Fail

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