Brussels, 01 Sep 2003
An EU project is aiming to re-establish the manufacture and use of roman cement - an obsolete historic binding material - to help safely restore Europe's heritage buildings to their original splendour.
The 'Roman cement to restore built heritage effectively' (ROCEM) project has received 1.37 million euro in EU funding under the energy, environment and sustainable development (EESD) section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). It brings together restoration experts and material production companies from the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Germany and Slovakia with a view to identifying the raw materials and techniques needed to reproduce the historic cement.
Explaining the impetus for the project, Dave Hughes, one of the consortium partners said: 'When you visit cities like Vienna or Paris as a tourist, you want to see buildings in good condition so this project really is about preserving our cultural heritage.'
Contrary to what its name suggests, Roman cement was a binding material developed in nineteenth century and much used to cover facades of buildings from that period. The use of Roman cement was widespread as it only took between seven to twenty minutes to set and was able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Yet despite such qualities, the cement became obsolete in the years following the First World War.
The disappearance of the cement from the market has meant that many European buildings, which were rendered and decorated using Roman cement, are now falling into disrepair. Restoration experts are reluctant to use modern forms of cement as these could actually damage the buildings they are trying to restore. A primary objective of the project will be to raise awareness among those involved in the care and restoration of nineteenth century heritage buildings of the need to re-introduce adequate restoration materials and techniques that closely match the original material properties.
Dr Hughes believes that by reintroducing historic materials, 'conservators will be better placed to carry out their work.'
While it is still early days yet, the project consortium has already successfully produced a number of cement samples. Different firing techniques will be put to the test in a laboratory before moving on to larger scale tests.
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