PhD studentship - Sustaining Scotland`s clay-rich sandstone buildings

Sustaining Scotland’s clay-rich sandstone buildings


Supervisors: Professor Martin Lee (School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow; Martin.Lee@Glasgow.ac.uk), Dr Maureen Young (Historic Environment Scotland; maureen.young@hes.scot), Dr Alick Leslie (Historic Environment Scotland; alick.leslie@hes.scot)

Background: The built heritage of Scotland includes monuments and buildings spanning thousands of years of history. It is preserved within our World Heritage Sites, and is one of Scotland’s primary cultural assets that, via the tourist industry, is also a major component of our national economy. Thus there is a cultural and an economic imperative to preserve the built heritage against an ever increasing range of threats (e.g., the deterioration from its age, the legacy of industrial pollution, and current and future climate change).

Project description: The focus of this project is on buildings constructed from distinctive clay-rich sandstones that are commonplace in various parts of Scotland (e.g., Angus, Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Arran, Lewis). The poor quality of these sandstones leads to a range of issues in building conservation which Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have identified as an urgent problem. Firstly, the high rate of decay of these poor stone types means that the buildings need frequent intervention. The replacement of a poor quality stone can also be difficult. If a poor stone is replaced like-for-like, then the issues of accelerated decay will remain. Sourcing of stone that is similar to the original is particularly difficult as almost all of the quarries exploiting local, poor quality stone have closed. If, however, a better (stronger) stone is used then there are risks that the original stones will suffer even more damage. These issues mean that conservation methods other than stone replacement need to be considered.

This research project will concentrate on three areas: (i) understanding the decay mechanisms and factors that cause/accelerate decay using a site-based toolkit of non-invasive methods, some of which are being developed through a current HES-Glasgow co-funded studentship. The high rates of decay of these sandstones means that changes should be identified over the timescale of the project. (ii) investigating methods for reducing the rate of decay in less resilient sandstone types (e.g. chemical treatments, water repellents). (iii) investigating methods for repair – i.e. what stone is available for indents, is it compatible with the existing stone, might a better stone be sourced, might repairs using mortar-based materials be appropriate? The study sites will cover a range of variables including date of construction, distance from a marine environment (a major source of damaging salts) and history of occupation (e.g., Brechin Cathedral, Jedburgh Abbey and Edzell Castle).

Funding: This studentship is fully funded by HES and the University of Glasgow. It addresses problems that are central to the strategic objectives of HES including the response and resilience of our built heritage to extremes of weather and climate change, and development of technologies for non-destructive testing of building materials. The project will also serve to increase the pool of scientists directly involved in HES research. The student will be based in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at Glasgow, but will also have the opportunity to work with the HES Conservation Science Team, which is based at The Engine Shed in Stirling, with additional laboratory facilities at South Gyle Conservation Centre, Edinburgh.

Application information: Apply through the website of the Graduate School of the College of Science and Engineering: http://www.gla.ac.uk/research/opportunities/howtoapplyforaresearchdegree/. The application deadline is 1 August 2017, with a start date of 1 October 2017. Further information can be obtained from the supervisors.


Geography and Earth Science both ranked in the top 10 in the UK (Complete University Guide 2017, Guardian University Guide 2016)

Geography ranked 28th in the World (QS World University rankings by subject 2016)

Human Geography ranked 1st in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research, and 1st in UK for published work (REF 2014)

Earth Systems Research Group rated as 1st in Scotland for both its world-leading publications and research environment (REF 2014)