Current Projects

Testing the role of soft wall capping in the conservation of ruined monuments (Phase 3)

 Prof. Heather Viles, Alan Cathersides and Chris Wood.

Funding: English Heritage

Phase 1 (2004-8) and phase 2 (2008-2011) of the soft wall capping research project have tested (using a combination of field trials, test walls and laboratory experiments) the ability of grass-based soft capping to provide a thermal blanket for, and modify moisture regimes on,  ruined wall heads in comparison with hard capping. Phase 2 also established trials of different types of capping (including sedum mats). We have found soft capping to be an effective conservation solution under a range of conditions. Phase 3 makes full use of the test capping already established around England, as well as the four purpose built test walls at Wytham Woods, near Oxford. At the end of phase 3 we will have up to 10 years of monitoring and observations of a range of types of soft capping on ruined walls of many different characteristics and materials.

More information can be obtained about this project by visiting the project website.

Damp Towers research project – testing alternative solutions to driving rain problems in historic buildings.

Chris Wood, Prof. Heather Viles, and Dr Mona Edwards

Funding: English Heritage

We are working in collaboration with Dr Liz Laycock, Sheffield Hallam University on this project to improve understanding of dampness within church towers and similar tall structures in order to devise more effective solutions. Driving rain poses a severe problem for many such structures, especially in the south west of England. Large scale testing has been performed  in the climatic chamber at Sheffield Hallam University, whilst smaller scale testing and field monitoring have been carried out by our laboratory. A one-day seminar on the findings of the project will be held in Exeter in January 2013 (hyperlink to flier for the day)

Rock breakdown on Earth and Mars

Prof. Heather Viles, Dr Mary Bourke and Dr Mona Edwards, with contributions from Mark Page, Karoline Messenzehl and Jerome Mayaud.

Funding: NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.

Boulders record environmental processes such as erosion, transport, and weathering. By examining rock breakdown signatures, we can unravel the environmental history of landscapes. However, interpreting these signatures is complex. Some signatures require thousands of years to form while others take minutes. The creation of one type of weathering signature may erase others. This project catalogues the diversity and characteristics of rock breakdown signatures and studies their persistence over time. We have carried out Mars-analogue fieldwork in the central Namib Desert, Namibia, and done laboratory simulations of rock breakdown under terrestrial desert and near-Mars conditions. In addition to advancing terrestrial geomorphology, results will aid in interpreting datasets from robotic missions to Mars and help to answer critical questions in Mars geology: When did water last flow on the surface? How were boulders transported to their current locations? How long does it take aeolian and cratering processes to completely mask evidence for past water?


NatuRALiMe: Natural and Resilient Admixtures for Lime Mortars

Dr Anna Arizzi and Prof Heather Viles

Funded by the European Commission within the Marie Curie FP7 programme, the research project NatuRALiMe (Oct. 2013 – Sept. 2015) aims to investigate the long-term effects that natural and sustainable admixtures have in lime-based mortars. The bio-receptivity of different mortar mixes when exposed to different climatic conditions and deterioration agents is studied by means of accelerated and natural weathering tests, which are being carried out in the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory and the Wytham Woods field site. Thanks to the collaboration with the University of Granada (Spain), this research also envisages the use of chemical, mineralogical and petrographical techniques for the characterization of mortar.

Prediction of Climatic Change Impact on Deterioration of Korean Granite Heritage

Dr. Jiyoung Kim and Prof. Heather Viles

Funding: NRF, Republic of Korea

It is predicted that climate change will widely change the deterioration and damage phenomena of stone heritage in Korea as temperature would variably increase up to 8℃ in 2071-2100 depending on location and altitude. Therefore, it is needed to predict the future climate change impacts on the stone heritage for long-term preventive conservation measures. This research is to analyse deterioration patterns of Korean granite heritage, such as flaking and granular disintegration which can be influenced by freezing-thawing, wetting-drying and heating-cooling effects, combined with climatic characteristics. And further weathering processes of them will be predicted in accordance with temperature and precipitation change in the future.