Micro-environmental change as a trigger for granite decay in offshore Irish lighthouses: Implications for the long-term preservation of operational historic buildings

  • Warke P
  • Smith B
  • Lehane E
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Abstract

Following automation of lighthouses around the coastline of Ireland, reports of accelerated deterioration of interior granite stonework have increased significantly with an assocd. deterioration in the historic structure and rise in related maintenance costs. Decay of granite stonework primarily occurs through granular disintegration with the effective grusification of granite surfaces. A decay gradient exists within the towers whereby the condition of granite in the lower levels is much worse than elsewhere. The lower tower levels are also regions with highest relative humidity values and greatest salt concns. Data indicate that post-automation decay may have been triggered by a change in micro-environmental conditions within the towers assocd. with increased episodes of condensation on stone surfaces. This in turn appears to have facilitated deposition and accumulation of hygroscopic salts (e.g. NaCl) giving rise to widespread evidence of deliquescence in the lower tower levels. Evidence indicates that the main factors contributing to accelerated deterioration of interior granite stonework are changes in micro-environmental conditions, salt weathering, chem. weathering through the corrosive effect of strongly alk. conditions on alumino-silicate minerals within the granite and finally, the mica-rich characteristics of the granite itself which increases its structural and chem. susceptibility to subaerial weathering processes by creating points of weakness within the granite. This case study demonstrates how seemingly minor changes in micro-environmental conditions can unintentionally trigger the rapid and extensive deterioration of a previously stable rock type and threaten the long-term future of nationally iconic operational historic structures. [on SciFinder(R)]

Author-supplied keywords

  • Deliquescence
  • Feedback mechanisms
  • Granite
  • Micro-environmental
  • Salt weathering

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Authors

  • P. A. Warke

  • B. J. Smith

  • E. Lehane

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