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Last Update: 17-04-2013  
Related category(ies):
Success stories  |  Environment

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Austria  |  Croatia  |  Czech Republic  |  Egypt  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Italy  |  Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Slovenia  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom
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New climate models will help preserve Europe's historical buildings

Europe and the Mediterranean contain more World Heritage sites than any other global region. These sites include hundreds of museums, churches, houses and castles that capture Europe’s rich history over the centuries.

©  Fotolia

Preserving these cultural assets will become increasingly complicated, however, as the climate in Europe changes. Temperature and humidity inside these buildings are often carefully controlled to protect their contents, which range from tapestries and wall frescoes to woodwork and structural elements. This climate control is complicated and expensive: it is not unusual for big museums to spend more than €500,000 per year on energy bills, and this is likely to increase in the future.

Since internal building conditions are primarily driven by the outside climate, climate change will demand new strategies for temperature and humidity control. To predict the effects of climate change on historical buildings, the European Commission has granted €4.9 million to the research project Climate for Culture, which comprises 27 partners from all over Europe and Egypt. The researchers are developing simulation tools to understand how climate influences buildings’ external and internal conditions. With the assistance of these simulations, building managers of historic sites will be better able to protect priceless artefacts and minimise cost.

Since internal building conditions are primarily driven by the outside climate, climate change will demand new strategies for temperature and humidity control. To predict the effects of climate change on historical buildings, the European Commission has granted €4.9 million to the research project Climate for Culture, which comprises 27 partners from all over Europe and Egypt. The researchers are developing simulation tools to understand how climate influences buildings’ external and internal conditions. With the assistance of these simulations, building managers of historic sites will be better able to protect priceless artefacts and minimise cost.

Climate change is expected to raise winter temperatures in northern Europe, and raise summer temperatures near the Mediterranean. Extremes of temperature will likely be greater, which will make maintaining constant indoor conditions even trickier. As precipitation increases in northern Europe and decreases in the Mediterranean, the humidity that interiors are exposed to will also change.

The first stage of the project has already broken new ground by quantifying how external climate correlates to indoor conditions in a variety of different building types. Using data from climate models of the region, the researchers have developed two separate building simulation tools. These tools are tailored for historic buildings, and based on data from 140 actual case studies in Europe and Egypt.

Next, the researchers will use climate projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to model how generalised building types in different parts of Europe and the Mediterranean will respond to climate change over the next 90 years.

The end goal of the project is the creation of software to help individual building managers decide how best to protect their collections.

“Let’s say you have a historic building made of stone, then you can take this building and move it through time and through space – whether it’s located in Scandinavia or Egypt, for example – and you can see how the indoor conditions will change,” explains project coordinator Dr Johanna Leissner.

Another area of the project’s research will focus on the threats of temperature and humidity change to particular materials, such as paper, cotton and wood. Mitigation strategies developed by Climate for Culture to protect cultural buildings and their artefacts are expected to feature in an upcoming IPCC report, the first time cultural assets have been thus recognised.

Project details

  • Project acronym: Climate for Culture
  • Participants: Germany (Coordinator), United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Austria, Spain, Egypt, France, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Poland
  • Project FP7 226973
  • Total costs: €6 566 393
  • EU contribution: €4 964 865
  • Duration: November 2009 - October 2014

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