Dry rot cure to save listed Scottish buildings

March 26, 1999

Scientists from the University of Abertay Dundee are working on a Pounds 75,000 project that could safeguard some of Scotland's architectural heritage for future generations, writes Olga Wojtas.

The university's dry rot research group, based in the school of science and engineering, is working on a scheme to test non-destructive methods of treating dry rot in ancient buildings. The dry rot fungus makes wood decay, ultimately reducing it to a brittle mass.

Senior lecturer John Palfreyman, who leads the research group with Nia White, said: "Conventional treatment methods for dry rot can be extremely destructive, often removing un-degraded timber and potentially destroying historical materials. There is a need for a less destructive method of treatment."

The project aims to produce a scientific basis for the new methodologies. The university has created a dedicated laboratory where dry rot has been grown on old timber structures. Its findings will enable research sponsor Historic Scotland, responsible for protecting the country's built heritage, to test new systems for treatment before using them on its buildings.

Neil Ross, Historic Scotland's conservation research manager, said current treatments were effective, but often at the expense of historic fabric. Conservationists are increasingly seeking alternative treatments that are non-toxic and non-invasive.

"The aim of this research project is to investigate the effects of control of the environmental conditions in the immediate area of a dry rot outbreak, thereby contributing to the retention of the building fabric and conserving the architectural and historical value of many buildings," he said.

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