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Gravity causes buildings to fall down External Causes of Decay. The sun produces light with ultraviolet and heat radiation Climatic causes Biological and botancial Natural disasters causes Seasonal temperature changes Animals Tectonics Daily temperature changes Birds Earthquakes Wind Insects Tidal waves Precipitation of rain and snow Trees and plants Floods Ice and frost Fungi, moulds, lichens Landslides Ground water and moisture in soil Bacteria Avalanches dust Dust Volcanic eruptions Exceptional winds Wild fire Internal Causes of Decay (Note: the building modifies and protects) (Courtesy: Plenderleith, H.J. and Werner, A.E.A., 1971)


7 Climatic causes of decay


Previous chapters have dealt with the effect of gravity, one of the principal causes of structural decay. This chapter deals mainly with geographical causes, i.e. with climate and its side effects.

Earthquakes are given a separate chapter. Climate, in all its aspects, is one of the fundamental causes of the decay of buildings, through failure of their materials which in turn affects the structure. To give a simple example, mud

brick or adobe may last thousands of years in extremely dry, arid desert conditions such as found in North Peru or Nubia, but less than a decade in the hot, humid climate of southern Nigeria. The resistance of building materials to climatic agents of decay decreases with their exposure and age. Even in temperate zones, solar radiation is found to be more destructive than frost. Water, in all its forms, is the agent that promotes chemical actions and gradual deterioration of building materials and actively damages buildings when heavy rainfall overflows gutters and rivers rise in flood. Whereas the macroclimate of the world has been classified according to the growth of different types of vegetation or annual rainfall, this information is only of indirect value to the architect examining an historic building. The active components of macro- climate that affect a building particularly are radiation from the sun, seasonal temperature changes, rainfall, particularly storms which may cause flooding on both a micro or macro scale, wind and the transportation of ground moisture. The siting of a building and the soil it stands on affect its microclimate which can modify the macroclimate considerably and so increase climatic hazards. For example, the ruined Villa Jovis on the island of Capri, built by the Emperor Tiberius c. A.D. 70, stands on a promontory rising about 300 m (1000 ft) from the Tyrrhenian Sea, exposed to the winds and salt spray as well as being liable to attract lightning strikes in an area noted for its thunderstorms. It has been shown that cities modify the macroclimate, being warmer in winter and also much more liable to heavy concentrations of atmospheric pollution. Other examples of microclimatic effects are frost ponds, shading by hills or mountains, and the ameliorating effects of water on temperature extremes, as well as that of the moisture content of the soil. The architectural form and structure of a building will influence the microclimate of its parts. Indigenous or vernacular architecture shows how buildings were used as 'spatial environmental systems' to modify the external climate, one

example being the wind towers and water-cooling chambers used in Iran and the Gulf States. Courtyards with water and fountains modify a hot, arid climate by providing shade and evaporation, as do trees when growing around a building. Particularly in hot humid climates, air circulation is important both for comfort and prevention of fungal attacks on organic material which often precedes insect attack, and in such cases one finds that the vernacular architecture of the country responds to its climate by having light, open structures with roof shapes designed to encourage air movement. If an historic building is to be used as a museum, both the external and internal climate will need careful consideration and the architect has a responsibility for defining and assessing the climatic factors which will affect the exhibits.
Solar radiation

Solar radiation is the prime cause of climatic conditions, and its wavelengths range from the ultraviolet (0.2 ^m), through the narrow band of visible spectrum of light (0.4-0.9 ^m) to up to infrared (8 ^m), which

(Courtesy: McGraw-Hill Book Co.; from Koeppe, C.E. and De Long, G.C., Weather and Climate, 1958)

Figure 7.1 Mean annual temperatureworld

(Courtesy: McGraw-Hill Book Co.; from Koeppe, C.E. and De Long, G.C., Weather and Climate, 1958)

Figure 7.2 World temperature ranges