Technical Committee on Rock Mechanics in the Built Environment

A number of issues faced by structures that employ structural, cladding or decorative architectural stone are analogous to those in the underground environment. While contemporary rock mechanics focuses on the engineering and material characteristics of a rock face, quarry, tunnel or mine, little attention is paid to the material that was excavated, quarried or mined. Much of this material might be deemed waste, be utilized as fill for civil infrastructure, or processed for ore, but a percentage is used in architecture and art. And, as such, it experiences a number of phenomena and environmental conditions which are detrimental to the stone. The initial challenge faced by rock occurs during the quarrying operations which can lead to micro-fracturing or other physical damage. Once removed from the rock mass, the stone experiences creep, stress relief and other time-dependent phenomena. And the stone is now exposed to environmental conditions including air pollution, rain, salt, and freezing and thawing cycles.

The purpose of the Technical Committee on Rock Mechanics in the Built Environment is to explore the application of rock mechanics principles to buildings, monuments and civil infrastructure constructed using stone. The issues range from deterioration mechanism of stone in traditional structures to problems associated with contemporary cladding stone. ISRM’s “Commission for Preservation of Ancient Sites” looks specifically at rock mechanics issues related to older sites and monuments. The ARMA committee will focus on a broader range of rock mechanics problems associated with using stone for buildings, monuments and civil infrastructure.

These problems are not to be underestimated. Stone in historic buildings can experience significant deterioration and current conservation practices appear to be based on a lack of understanding of the nature of rock.  Thinner and thinner dimension stone intended for use as cladding seemingly ignores concepts such as creep, stress relief and the non-homogenous nature of rock. And attempts to make stone more weather resistant do not take into account the potential detrimental aspects of such treatments or variations in the morphology of rock. It will be the purpose of this committee to contribute to the development of a better understanding of the problems faced by stone used in buildings, bridges and monuments.  We will work to define the applicable deterioration mechanism based on rock mechanics criteria. And we will seek to develop solutions to the unique engineering and material science challenges faced by stone in the built environment.

Mark Liebman CASE Forensics Corp.
Vasco Fassina  Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Ret)
John Harrison University of Toronto
Yossef Hatzor, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Maria-Aikatherini Nikolinakou University of Texas
Bibhuti B. Panda Amec Foster Wheeler
Jose Delgado Rodriguez ISRM Secretary General (Ret.)
John Speweik Speweik Preservation Consultants