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The Art of Restoration
  • Apr 27, 2022
  • Latest Journal

By Eur Ing Constantinos Franceskides Ph.D.
A critical assessment on the subject of restoration and betterment.

As a forensic engineer, I have been involved in several cases where the recovery and reinstatement of an asset was the “make or break” point in the successful resolution of an insurance claim.

It is not immediately obvious how a forensic engineer might influence the recovery, reinstatement, or restoration of an asset; however, let us start by thinking of a forensic engineer akin to a forensic pathologist. Although this is a gross simplification of the work of a forensic pathologist, they are considered to be the experts in determining medical causes of death and how disease affects the human body. Similarly, forensic engineers identify the root cause of the failure in a system or an individual component. The key difference is the mechanical, rather than biological, aspect of the work. Pathologists look at injuries and offer expert opinion on the nature of the damage and likely causation whilst considering patient history and specifics of the incident. Similarly, forensic engineers will look at the operation, working envelope, and the system as a whole in order to piece together the operative history of the asset.

So how is this connected with the subject of restoration and betterment? We will explore this further at the end.

Restoration, in accordance with the Cambridge Dictionary, is the act or process of returning something to its earlier good condition or position, or to its owner. By default, this would be a positive outcome for any affected asset. As you will see, this is not always the case and like most things in the forensic world, detail is everything.

Once the asset is assessed by the engineer, there is the important work of finding the root cause of the failure and establishing the true extent of damage to the system. Once this critical work is completed, the decision to repair or replace is simply an economical equation of cost (material and labour) over benefit. If reconditioning is an appropriate course of action, the engineer is best qualified to recommend the most suitable technology, contractors, and specialists to conduct and oversee the project.

Many contractors, both specialists and generalists, consider themselves qualified to perform restorative work, but restoration on specialist items that are often subject to considerable insurance claims should be limited to a very few experts. Consider the restoration of an 1814 steam-powered envelope folding and embossing press. An engineering marvel of its time, it is full of unknowns and uncertainty for its insurers today. A press of such type might be central to the business and its unique selling point. It is thus a critical component of the business operation and may carry its reputation upon its capabilities.

When an order for embossed and folded envelopes to serve invites for a high-profile wedding was received and the venerable machine was called into action, it promptly failed. The supply of a modern, much more capable machine for the task was simply not an option and neither is a like-for-like replacement. Thus, restoration was the only way forward to allow the order to be fulfilled in the manner intended, which involved disassembly, casting of new materials, balancing of the components, and reassembly of the unit.

What makes this case unique is the bespoke approach required for each component and the care and attention required to restore almost each individual nut and bolt. The resolution of this claim was not possible without a successful restoration. The potential business interruption and significant settlement created additional incentives to complete the restoration at a much lower cost.  

3D scanning was used to recreate a failed flywheel, which was then adapted for the new main shaft. A model was then used to create the casting voids. The flywheel was then recast with much higher accuracies. Following the casting, the flywheel was then balanced and machined where needed to remove any secondary vibrations.

A successful restoration is not only measured by the ability to return the unit back to service, but to have the confidence of repeat operation and technical support when required. In this case, there was the curious outcome of a machine manufactured in 1814 returning to service with a 12-month warranty.
Yet careful application of these techniques is required when, at first glance, there appear to be no downsides. The next example demonstrates precisely why.

A fire consumed a paper storage facility where, next door, a collection of valuable and highly collectable vehicles was stored. The vehicles were exposed to the – sometimes invisible – combustion products produced in the fire. This led to a very expensive and complicated insurance claim. At the time, the vehicle expert advised that a superficial clean would suffice to restore the cars to their previous condition. Unsurprisingly, months later, chassis rails, fuel pipes, and body panelling were a few of the items that showed evidence of exaggerated corrosion. The expert then advised a complete strip and restoration of two of the more badly affected vehicles: a very old bread van and an exotic sports car. Both restorations took place with specialists, the latter with the original manufacturer, which left the vehicles in pristine condition. This resulted in an unexpected situation for insurers, with the bread van losing a significant part of its value with the loss of many original components and the exotic sports car gaining a considerable sum due to the restoration to seemingly original condition by the manufacturer. So, in effect, the same process yielded two very different outcomes, with one demonstrating the insurance principle of betterment. The old bread van was a 1956 Citroen 2CV in its original paintwork and with few defects. An extremely rare find, most of these are repainted; an example with the original paint is instantly an attribute to the price of the vehicle. Many experts would be capable of identifying the root cause of the corrosion, but only the right expert is capable of specifying the correct restoration techniques and fully resolving the issue.
In short, to be able to administer the correct treatment, the expert must have complete confidence in the diagnosis. Like a pathologist, the expert must know which parts are being attacked and understand the effects of treatments available to treat the cause rather than the symptoms. Unlike forensic pathologists, forensic engineers, with the correct application of restoration techniques, can breathe new life into their subjects.

So, what can you expect from us?
A detailed report and consideration of the relevant accounts, and an expert, knowledgeable in the field, up to date with developments and cutting-edge technology. We are trained to provide an independent and impartial assessment of the facts. A single point of contact that will run the matter from start to finish whilst obtaining approvals from the appropriate parties with the utmost consideration to the client.
Learning Points:
• Not everything is beyond economic repair
• Not everything is economic to repair
• Balanced expert assessment of the asset and subsequent stages is needed from the outset.

EUR ING Constantinos Franceskides
Forensic Consultant
Mobile: +44(0)7983079363
Email: cfranceskides@rimkus.com
London – Level 30, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, City of London, EC3V 4AB,
+44 (0) 20 3744 8403



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