More and more buildings in Europe are being damaged by rising damp. Many different means are used to combat this problem, but not all of them are effective. For this reason, the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has launched a research project, together with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and partners from Italy and Belgium. The project is entitled ‘EMERISDA – Effectiveness of methods against rising damp in buildings: European practice and perspective’. The project is aimed at consolidating the currently fragmented scientific knowledge.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a financial contribution of € 50 000 for the study, in order to stimulate international collaboration for the conservation of cultural heritage. Historic buildings often suffer from rising damp in their walls because they have brick foundations. The damp rises through capillary action, causing mould and mildew to occur. “It is becoming more common in buildings with concrete foundations as well, especially where there is poor drainage, so it's a growing problem”, explains Rob van Hees, Professor of Conservation Techniques. He is leading the project on behalf of the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, along with Barbara Lubelli.

Current methods to combat rising damp in walls include injections, ventilation systems and mechanical disruption. However, these methods do not always work. For example, injecting chemicals under very damp conditions can produce results that differ greatly from those obtained under dry conditions. Experiments with reversible techniques such as ‘active electrokinesis’) have also proved unreliable. Climate change may cause even more problems with moisture intrusion in buildings. Rising sea levels can cause the inland penetration of salt water. Salt can act as a kind of bridge for rising damp. The Italian partners in the EMERISDA project are already familiar with this problem. The city of Venice is particularly vulnerable to additional moisture intrusion resulting from the influx of salt water through high tides.

In the next three years, the partners in the research project will be compiling an inventory of the techniques and knowledge that are being applied in Europe. The objective is to provide scientific insight regarding which methods are effective and how they should be deployed. The project should result in a practical guidelines for restoration architects. Several case studies are included on the agenda for the research project.

Partners from Belgium (BBRI/WTCB) and Italy (CNR-ISAC, Ca’ Foscari University, MEDIngegneria, Restauri Speciali, Diasen) are involved in the project, in addition to TU Delft and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. 

Published: October 2013