Research team

Expertise

Expertise in stone-built heritage, in particular multi-scale assessment of material characterization, degradation processes and conservation in the context of cultural heritage and changing environments (including climate change).

Monitoring and assessment of surface degradation of historic buildings. 01/12/2022 - 30/11/2025

Abstract

Stone-built heritage and sculptures are subjected to short- and long-term environmental stressors like climate and pollution that eventually lead to degradation. The mechanisms underpinning stone degradation are complex and continuously evolving within a changing environment. Stone surfaces bear the legacy of historic environmental stressors and face the challenges of future ones. Therefore, monitoring and assessment of stone surface degradation is crucial to understand historic changes and material condition, and to preserve the fabric in face of those future challenges. This project focusses on the detection of agents of degradation through a range of conventional techniques like SEM-EDX and innovative non- or micro-destructive techniques. The focus lies on new monitoring and detection strategies for pollutants (like heavy metals) and salts in their close relationship with moisture loads, in order to reconstruct degradation processes and guide future interventions in a sustainable and safe and healthy way.

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  • Research Project

Compatibility of urban green infrastructure and built heritage environments. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Nature-based solutions in urban environments can help achieving Sustainable Development Goals and those put forward by the European Green Deal. This project scopes the synergy between green infrastructure and the conservation of our built heritage. Using a value-based approach, we investigate how green infrastructure can comply with the quality principles of built heritage conservation, within the limits of technical possibilities. The aim is to provide a decision-making framework to help heritage actors implementing green infrastructure as adaptation and mitigation strategies in heritage environments, making sure that heritage at the core of the urban fabric is playing its active role in the mitigation of environmental challenges.

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  • Research Project

Climate Impact on Built Heritage (CLIMPACTH). 01/09/2021 - 01/12/2025

Abstract

CLIMPACTH has the ambition to study the impact of climate change on built heritage and to produce guidelines for restoration and renovation practice. The consortium is composed of KIK-IRPA (Monuments Lab), RMI (Modelling), UAntwerpen (ARCHES, Visionlab) and UGent (Atmospheric Physics, Building Physics, PProGRess). A climate impact atlas will be developed to define the risks of climate change on built heritage envelopes, by optimizing climate data and projections for the built environment, characterisation of materials in built heritage envelopes for hygrothermal modelling, and using hygrothermal modelling for evaluating degradation phenomena.

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  • Research Project

Characterising the impact of urban green initiatives on cultural heritage environments. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Cities are increasingly implementing 'green' initiatives to improve the environment for the health and wellbeing of residents. Common initiatives in Flanders include more space for pedestrians, low emission zones, expanding green spaces and density of plants, and the reintroduction of water. These initiatives are often undertaken in historic city centres, in which heritage buildings are abundant: these heritage buildings are crucial to establishing the character of places and supporting mental wellbeing. These buildings are often built from traditional materials such as local stone, brick, and mortar. Over time, these materials are affected by the local environment and can deteriorate. The factors that control this deterioration are the same as those which are most commonly modified by introducing green initiatives in urban areas. This project investigates how the 'greening' of our cities may have long-term implications for the durability of heritage buildings. Of particular interest is how these initiatives change the environment at a local scale near the surfaces of heritage buildings. By using laboratory studies and examining heritage buildings in proximity to current 'greening' initiatives, this project will not only study the current impacts on heritage buildings and their materials, but also look forward to the implications for our heritage and cities toward the end of the 21st century.

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  • Research Project

Horizon Europe: Destination: Innovative Research on the European Cultural Heritage and the Cultural and Creative Industries. 07/09/2021 - 06/09/2022

Abstract

Submission of a project proposal for the research programme for HORIZON-CL2-2021-HERITAGE-01-01: Green technologies and materials for cultural heritage. The research proposal is centred around h cleaning techniques for historical surfaces.

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  • Research Project

Towards tailored design and 3D printing of geopolymers as a novel application for conservation of stone-built heritage. 01/07/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

This research proposes a new development in the restoration sector is presented. This development consists of the application of 3D printed geopolymers in stone-built heritage. Stone-built heritage plays a significant role in the past as well as in today's society. Numerous structures, sculptures and other decorations are made in stone, ranging from purely functional structures to structures of significant historical and cultural value. Stone has quantitative properties, such as durability, which is why it is associated with longevity. However, the stone is not an inert material. It undergoes changes in appearance and functional capacity that can be understood as surface processes that lead to degradation, ultimately with an overall loss of value (damage). Currently, the conventional restoration method is the use of repair mortars. Repair mortars are an efficient way of preservation, aiming at maximum preservation of the original material. However, they also have many drawbacks, the main one being the lack of compatibility with the original material. It will eventually cause damage to the substrate. It is a very well-founded reason to look beyond the known and established products and methods from the restoration sector and conduct multidisciplinary research. By combining engineering and materials science with restoration sciences, we can develop new methods. A new method that can result from this is the application of 3D printed geopolymers. Geopolymers are stone-like materials which are placed between binders, such as cement and ceramics. The properties can be strongly influenced. Different types of geopolymers exist, depending on the system through which they are activated. In this study, we would like to focus on alkali-activated geopolymers because they can be manufactured from waste materials. In this way, this is a circular material, and therefore CO2 production is significantly reduced. An additional advantage of using alkali-activated geopolymers is that the equipment to print this type of geopolymer already exists (but we do not rule out the possible use of other types of geopolymers in the future). By conducting this research, a new and innovative working method can be developed for the restoration industry. It will improve the restoration process so that our stone heritage can be well preserved for later generations, despite the degradation processes of stone. At the same time, this research also yields a sustainable method, which will be crucial for later generations to continue to admire the heritage.

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  • Research Project