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Millennium-long damage to building materials in London

The Science of The Total Environment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.09.037
  • Air Pollution
  • Climate Change
  • Weathering
  • Surface Recession
  • Blackening
  • Corrosion
  • Stone
  • Metals


Abstract Damage functions from a range of sources are used to estimate deterioration of carbonate stone, iron and copper, in addition to the rate of blackening of stone surfaces in London across the period 1100–2100 CE. Meteorological and pollution input is available for only a relatively short part of this span, so non-instrumental weather records and modelled pollution are utilised for historic values, while future climate is adapted from the HadCM3A2 model output and pollution assessed from likely regulatory trends. The results from the different damage functions compare reasonably well showing comparable changes in damage rates with time. A potential square-root dependence of change in deposition velocity of SO 2 to limestone suggests a possible overestimate of damage when pollution is high. Deterioration is especially intense from the 1700s. It is difficult to be certain whether the corrosion of copper accelerated as early as this or it developed in the 20th century. Nevertheless all the functions predict a decline in copper corrosion from the end of the 20th century. A blackening function was developed to relate elemental carbon concentration and the colour of deposited particulate matter to blackening rate, which suggests that soiling was particularly rapid in the late 19th century. The increase and subsequent decrease in damage to building materials is interpreted in terms of a Kuznets curve. The centuries where pollution controlled damage to durable building material seems to be over. Weathering, in a changing climate may have the greatest impact in the future.

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