Advanced structural health monitoring for stone masonry structures - bringing new technology closer to market

Lead Research Organisation: City, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Mathematical Sci


Building stone has a finite life that can be drastically curtailed when it is placed in the often-aggressive environments experienced in today's urban settings - yet stone masonry is still widely recognized as an adaptable and sustainable construction material, with a low carbon signature, and as a repository of much of the world's tangible cultural heritage. Arising from this, it is essential that the choice of new and replacement stone and the conservation of decaying stone is underpinned by a detailed knowledge of how different stone types decay in specific environments and what factors trigger decay and control its rate once it is initiated. Data are limited from the wide range of stone types seen in structures existing today - the performance characteristics of only a limited number of comparatively durable stones are known and these are largely resistant to physical damage and decay is driven primarily by dissolution. The rate of solution of stones is influenced by factors such as rainfall amount, timing, atmospheric conditions and chemistry and thus, with knowledge of micro-environmental conditions in and around the building stone, decay rates are largely predictable from short-term observation. Despite rather advanced non-destructive methods currently used for assessing the deterioration process and their rates, the fate and extent of inner contamination of building materials remains largely unaccounted for by such methods. Therefore qualitative online health monitoring of these building materials using embedded sensors is essential, not only from the standpoint of economic planning and maintenance, but also on cultural, technical and scientific grounds. Novel sensor systems designed specifically for use in buildings constructed from stone can provide the data that conservators need which enable them to understand better the complex processes that are on-going and to model better and thus plan repair and maintenance procedures in a cost efficient and timely way. This work builds upon several previous EPSRC grants into both fibre optic sensor systems, civil structural monitoring and heritage stonework. However in particular this follow on application builds upon the successful technical achievements of a grant focusing on the test, evaluation and design of a suite of new sensor systems for stonework monitoring for both moisture and chloride transport. The work enabled a more detailed evaluation of the decay processes and the beginning of a better understanding of several key applications-focused issues from that grant funded. Recognizing that the Follow-on Fund is concerned with development towards an identified commercial opportunity, this project can be summarized as the development, commercialization and marketing of fibre optic sensor systems for monitoring ingress of moisture and moisture-borne salts in the context of structural monitoring and decay prevention of stonework, both historic and modern. Through carefully considered technical and commercial plans, it is intended to refine the sensors for the specific monitoring environments of stone masonry strucures and develop probes which can be used in stonework in a minimal invasive manner. The commercial feasibility will be established through in situ evaluation, market testing and working closely with an SME with specialised knowledge in monitoring the built environment.

Planned Impact

There will be a critical impact on the major beneficiaries of the research outcome, as indicated below - the discussion shows who they are and how specifically they benefit from this research - The wider public in general. Impact will come from the success of the research through the preservation of our cultural heritage: making it available to future generations. The impact would be seen across the UK - and not just in 'heritage' sites but in the considerable number of historic building occupied on a day-to-day basis by 'ordinary people': allowing them better use of their homes, their workplaces and their public buildings. A significant impact would be avoiding the inconvenience and disruption to the public and the significant financial losses caused by such infrastructure not being available - the public expects to see a pleasant, safe and fit-for-purpose environment in the UK and indeed worldwide for people to work in, to visit and to enjoy - The public sector and stakeholders. The work will target the determination of the viability and efficacy of an integrated approach for better and minimally-invasive human monitoring of stonework and masonry. The success of this follow-on study will not just provide the public sector and stakeholders with valuable information based around the data generated and the information provided, but also be designed to equip the public and private sector with a cost-effective means to tackle the structurally-critical problems they have, aiming for the minimum compromises in terms of social and legal implications, and therefore allowing for significant savings to the public purse in the preservation of public and government-owned heritage buildings - The commercial sector. Impact will be seen in UK industry being able to benefit from direct access to the outcomes of the follow on studies carried out through the partnership developed both during the project period and subsequently, drawing upon the complementary expertise and the breadth of experience within the partnership across the disciplines involved - The UK Institutions involved. They will benefit from the enhancement of their respective current research portfolios and the consolidation of cross-disciplinary culture within each partner institution as a result of the synergy of expertise brought together through partnership and with that the exchange of good practice. - The investigators. An important impact on them will be from the experience gained in the coordination and management of this type of cross-disciplinary research and working with key industrial stakeholders. They will gain valuable insight into the processes of breaking down communications barriers inherent in multidisciplinary activity of this type. - The early career PDRAs and PhD students involved. Potentially the impact on them can be hugh - they will gain significant experience by working with colleagues in different Universities and across different sectors, which creates a unique platform for them to develop their future careers To ensure that the maximum potential for impact is realized and the users and beneficiaries discussed have the opportunity to benefit from this research, several key dissemination routes will be created. These include the publications, open fora and conference and workshops organized to publicize the research outcome to industrial partners and academic communities. A website will be created and will be regularly updated, with the aim of informing broader public of the direction of the work and possible outcomes.


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Description The grant focused on developing advanced implementation strategies for the sensor systems that were created so that they could more readily be used. New sensors have been developed and tested in this environment. They have proved to be useful for other applications and current work applies them in several different sectors.
Exploitation Route In building on the success of the work to implement new sensors outside the laboratory. The City Research & Enterprise Office is supporting taking these developments further with industry.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

Description They have been used in the on-going development of sensor systems for a wide range of applications. Testing and evaluation is on-going and positive results are seen.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Construction,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Sengenia Ltd 
Organisation Sengenia Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2008