What is Building Pathology?
The word pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general. Building Pathology as a term means "Finding the cause of a building's Problem". For instance mould in a building can have many different causes, building Pathology is used to find the correct ROOT CAUSE of the building's mould.
Where CONSURV differs dramatically from the standard engineering or surveying practice is that we apply our extensive experience with building pathology to each and every one of the buildings which we undertake to survey. Research in identifying problems with mould, toxic mould, fungus and dry rot are second nature to Consurv.
We prefer to take care of the buildings qualities rather than destroying them, so for the past 30 years, the team at Conserv Building Pathology have devoted their time to non-destructive investigation techniques in relation to surveying historic buildings.
This has proven to be extremely valuable in saving not only money pertaining to the restoration of historic buildings, but also more importantly saving the historic fabric of the building itself. A range of surveying techniques have been developed by Consurv that are consistent with the minimum intervention approach required when dealing with our nation's important stock of historic buildings.
In search for the core element of, for instance, Dry rot or toxic mould, the introduction of fibre optic cameras which can access areas behind dry lining systems, timber heads, sub floor voids and other inaccessible areas, means that there is only a 10mm hole made for the examination process as opposed to the more commonly used opening up method, where a 4-6 inch square section of fabric is opened up which has to be subsequently repaired and usually results in loss of important historic fabric.
The Resistometer is another important piece of equipment, used when diagnosing Dry Rot and Mould, that can measure the structural integrity of timber by drilling a 1mm bit into a timber section while measuring its resistance leaving virtually no evidence of interference. While a piece of timber may be visually contaminated with either Wet Rot or by mycelium of Dry Rot – the Resistometer will give a structural analysis of the timber element, perhaps revealing that while there may be damage on the surface the majority of the timber section may in fact be sound. This methodology has in many cases proved invaluable in saving important building fabric that would otherwise have been lost.
By applying our extensive knowledge of building pathology we can give a very clear understanding of what is causing a problem in the first instance. Diagnosis of the cause is the primary element which sets in motion the train of thought as to how the building is eventually going to be restored.
Understanding material compatibility is essential, particularly when dealing with Historic Buildings that may have had modern interventions, as sometime this can be the cause of toxic mould. We have been involved in various European Studies investigating materials technology. At Consurv for example, a detailed analysis of the type of plaster that is present on a wall can be analysed and the results can subsequently be used to specify a plaster mix that would be compatible with the existing material.
There are many companies selling Lime at the moment. It should be borne in mind however, that extensive experience is required when specifying as the characteristics of Lime will change dramatically with the use of admixtures and it is very easy to end up with a Lime based mix which can often be harder than Portland cement. The understanding of the material and the understanding of the compatibility of the material is primary when it comes to repairing or re-plastering existing buildings.
Most of the information available on the Irish Market in relation to historic buildings is provided by manufacturers of a specific product or retailers for said product. For instance, the information and guidance provided on Lime to the owners of our Georgian and Historic buildings come in the main from the distributors or manufacturers of the product. At Consurv we can offer a detailed analysis and an actual specification for the material regardless of the supplier.
Dr. Brennan and his team have a long track record in non-destructive treatment and diagnosis of Dry Rot – some of our flagship buildings, for instance Farmleigh House and Markree Castle, have been passively treated for the past 27 years. No chemicals were used in the treatment of Dry Rot in Markree Castle even though the building had suffered badly as a result of ingress of water and Dry Rot was prevalent throughout the building. In most of the areas the Dry Rot still exists but we have changed the conditions of the building so that Dry Rot cannot survive. Dry Rot is no different to a house plant (let it be a Geranium in a pot) it needs certain conditions to operate under and the knowledge contained within the specialities of Consurv allow for manipulation of climate conditions simply by eliminating water and identifying the areas where water ingress is taking place. This can be done in a non-destructive manner with the use of Thermal Imaging whereby it is possible to identify the source of the moisture. Once the source has been identified it can be eliminated and the building will dry out naturally.
It is important to remember that these buildings have lasted for hundreds of years and there is no reason why they should not continue to last. The majority of defects in Consurv's experience over the last 30 years in buildings related to defective de-watering of the building. i.e. gutters, roves, down-pipes, drainage systems etc, leading to problems with mould, fungus and dry rot.
Thomas Brennan the Managing Director of Consurv has recently been appointed to lecture in the Historical Building section of NUI Maynooth on best building practice of Historic Buildings. Thomas Brennan and his staff are committed to ensuring that our important stock of historic buildings are cared for in accordance with best Conservation practices.