News and features

Organic compounds from plants may trigger building erosion

Research explores the impact of 'green' chemicals on infrastructure.

New collaborative research from the University of Surrey’s Dr Prashant Kumar and Southampton’s Dr Abhishek Tiwary finds that trees and vegetation planted in city parks may actually harm physical infrastructure, if levels of pollution are already high.

Dr Kumar and Dr Tiwary reveal that when organic chemicals and air pollutants mix, the resulting gas is so corrosive it can significantly damage building materials including stone, concrete and steel.

“The impact of plant-based chemicals on buildings hasn’t been explored yet, so our team decided to look into it,” said Dr Kumar. “We found that species like sycamore maple and Douglas fir produced organic compounds which, combined with high levels of ground-level ozone during the summer, heightened the concentration of ground level ozone.

“As a result, the limestone on buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey spoils. In the future, city planners should look into the species of vegetation they plant in green spaces. Such a consideration might improve the structural longevity of buildings of historic importance.”

Dr Kumar and Dr Tiwary's full paper, ‘Impact evaluation of green–grey infrastructure interaction on built-space integrity: An emerging perspective to urban ecosystem service’, is published within Science Direct.

Read the full story on The Conversation.


Discover Surrey’s Civil and Environmental Engineering programmes.

Find out about the experiences of Surrey undergraduates studying within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Related news and features