Many historic buildings are made with stone structures. In addition to the various benefits that this type of material, which is diversified by composition, aggregation and geometry according to historical periods and geographical areas, it must be remembered that exposure to fire constitutes in most cases an important vulnerability. Even recently, several cases of fire have highlighted the importance of designing from fire, in buildings belonging to the cultural heritage, building elements to which adequate attention is not always paid.
The case of the fire that seriously damaged the chapel that housed the Holy Shroud in Turin, on April 11, 1997, can be considered iconic in this regard. For its restoration it was necessary to open the quarry near the place from which at the time the stone material with which the supporting structures had been made had been extracted (see reference, page 25) . Among other things, the individual blocks had been designed and installed with techniques of which the memory had been lost and which forced the restorers to a specific study.
In 217 A.D. Rome’s Colosseum was slightly damaged by a fire. Since Rome is built in a seismic area and there is an earthquake reported during September 217 A.D. ,Rome Univerity La Sapienza’s Professor Enzo Cartapati has studied the possibility of a fire event due to the seismic event.
Together with Maurizio Cerone, Prof. Cartapati has conducted a structural analysis of Colosseum’s stone columns, in order to understand if actually the fire occurred after the seismic shock.
The presentation of such work, presented during the April 11th 2003 Conference “Integrating Historic Preservation with Security, Fire Protection, Life safety and Building Management Systems”, can be downloaded from this website:
Fire is one of the major threat to stone-built cultural heritage and this paper is a review of the existing research into fire damage on building stone. From early research based on anecdotal evidence of macroscopic observations, scientists have moved on to develop various techniques for approaching the investigation of fire damage to stone (high- temperature heating in ovens, lasers, real flame tests), different aspects of the damage that fire does have been learned from each, developing understanding of how microscopic changes affect the whole.
This paper, published on the Journal of Architectural Conservation seeks to highlight the need for a greater awareness of the threat that fire poses (and the need to take precautionary measures in the form of fire-suppression systems), of the immediate effects, and of the long-term management issues of natural stone structures which have experienced fire.