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Mission: Protect world’s historic sites from climate change

Arches in RuinsAs international leaders prepare for December talks on tackling climate change, European and North African scientists are studying ways to protect some of the world’s most historic structures from global warming.

The EU-backed “Climate for Culture” project, which kicked off this week, aims to assess how climate change will affect selected UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe and North Africa and to develop preventative strategies for preserving those sites.

Among the sites researchers plan to focus on over the next five years are the historic old towns of Wismar and Stralsund on the Baltic; Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna; the pyramids of Saqqara in Egypt, and Venice, which faces risks from rising sea levels

“The intention is not only to generate precise and integrated assessments of actual damage cultural heritage sites caused by the influence of climate change,” said project manager Johanna Leissner. “In fact, the goal also includes developing and implementing sustainable and preventative strategies.”

Researchers will use building simulations software and other new simulation techniques to develop customised protection strategies for each historic site.

For example, in the case of the Bavarian royal castles of Ludwig II — the Schloss Linderhof, the Renatus chapel in Lustheim and Königshaus in Schachen — that will mean finding innovative, energy-saving ways to protect the structures against the ravages of moisture and mould, both of which are likely to increase as the climate warms.

“The Bavarian royal castles were not designed for the several thousands of tourists who come through to visit each day,” said Ralf Kilian of the Fraunhofer Institutes for Building Physics IBP.

The EU has granted €5 million for the research project, which brings together 30 partners from 16 nations in Europe and North Africa.

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