New Technology to Easily Analyze Infrastructure Vulnerabilities in Urban Settings

New York, NY — Professor Debra Laefer from NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), in collaboration with Professor Aoife Gowen  and Zohreh Zahiri from the University College Dublin, recently demonstrated for the first time the ability to use hyperspectral imaging to characterize differing strengths within a single type of construction material.  With proper post-processing of the data, hyperspectral imaging can automatically and reliably detect weak from strong hardened concrete and normally fired bricks. All of this is done without any destructive testing or direct contact with the materials. The concrete results were just published in ScienceDirect and the brick one in Research Gate.

This technology will help civil engineers and developers rapidly analyze the integrity of construction materials and assist with the documentation, preservation, and restoration of historical structures, as well as the asset management of our infrastructure.

“Previous studies have shown the ability to use hyperspectral imaging to correctly distinguish between different materials, such as wood or steel. Our team was able to use the same technology to collect information that enables distinguishing the strength within a single material without touching it or destroying it,” said Professor Laefer. “After further study, we believe this technology can be successfully deployed from the air or autonomous vehicles to characterize building materials at a city-scale, thereby avoiding the need for scaffolding and destructive testing during building façade inspections and other assessments.”

This technology will be an important tool in the future of infrastructure asset management and can have a significant impact on architectural conservation by providing a non-destructive means for safety and serviceability assessments of existing building materials. 

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress

CUSP is a university-wide center whose research and education programs are focused on urban informatics. Using NYC as its lab, and building from its home in the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, it integrates and applies NYU strengths in the natural, data, and social sciences to understand and improve cities throughout the world. CUSP offers a one-year MS degree in Applied Urban Science & Informatics. For more news and information on CUSP, please visit


Kim Alfred, CUSP

Samantha Qualls