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News

Delft University helps prevent damage to monuments

Delft University Of Technology : 26 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
Research at Delft University of Technology has shown that the combination of salt and fluctuations in relative humidity has a disastrous effect on the masonry and plasterwork of historic buildings. But that damage may be preventable by adding so-called crystallisation inhibitors.
Research at Delft University of Technology has shown that the combination of salt and fluctuations in relative humidity has a disastrous effect on the masonry and plasterwork of historic buildings. But that damage may be preventable by adding so-called crystallisation inhibitors.

Both in the laboratory and at a number of historic buildings in the field, Lubelli investigated the damage caused by sea salt. Many of the structures she studied, such as the Sint-Nicolaaskerk (Church of Saint Nicholas) in Brouwershaven, are in the south-western region of the Netherlands which was inundated with seawater in the great flood of 1953.

Lubelli's research has shown that fluctuations in relative humidity have a particularly detrimental effect upon the interior state of such buildings. They cause the sea salt which has penetrated the stonework to crystallise from time to time, eventually turning it to powder.

One possible solution to this problem is careful control of the climate inside the buildings. But another option being cautiously considered is the use of so-called crystallisation inhibitors such as sodium ferrocyanide. These substances, Lubelli has found, can reduce or even prevent the damage caused by crystallisation. Such treatment would be entirely new in the world of restoration.

Lubelli's findings are now being put into practice at a number of sites, one of them the historic Waaggebouw (Weighhouse) on Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam. 'Inside that building,' explains Professor Rob van Hees, Lubelli's PhD supervisor, 'you find some really beautiful examples of brickwork from the 17th and 18th centuries. The so-called 'master proofs' are of international importance. The problem, though, is that this work is deteriorating at a rapid rate.'
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