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Understanding How to Rehabilitate a Historical Building

In the summer of 2020, Pro Patrimonio received funding through the National Institute of Heritage’s Historical Monuments Stamp Tax for the preparation of the technical documentation necessary for the authorization and execution of conservation works at the Neamțu Manor in Olari. For the historical monument LMI 2015-OT-II-m-B-08968, we are preparing all the necessary documentation for its conservation and resetting it functionally as an experimental centre for studies and education.

The foundation’s mission is to use every process, site, and experiment as an opportunity to educate both specialists and the general public. We use this opportunity to tell what such a journey means, which seems very complicated, bureaucratic and accessible only to those who know the field. We make this process transparent, an example and an encouragement to confidently call on the support of professionals to intervene on an existing building, not just on a historical monument.

The project is composed of several stages for the elaboration of technical-economic documentation for interventions on historical monuments. The first of these is the diagnosis - what problems is the house facing? Just like at the doctor's, we first evaluate the health condition and the causes of the visible degradations, but we also perform material analyses in order to be able to evaluate the behaviour of the house in more detail.

What is the diagnostic stage made up of?

> SURVEY >> HISTORICAL STUDY >> MATERIAL ANALYSIS >> GEOTECHNICAL STUDY >> TOPOGRAPHIC LIFTING >> TECHNICAL EXPERTISE

THE SURVEY is the complete drawing of the building (plans, sections, facades), made by the architect. You can measure it in the classic way - with roulette and draw each piece separately, or you can opt for modern technology - 3D scanning. The survey is combined with photographs and direct observations to note the degradations that are observed: cracks, missing elements (windows, plasters, finishes, chimneys) or deformations and displacements of constituent elements. Direct observation can also provide information about the different stages of construction (if joints or differences in materials are observed).

The evolution of the building over time - changes, usage, references and old images - is particularly important to understand the current state of the building.

THE HISTORICAL STUDY also analyses the cultural value of the various constituent elements, establishing, in the case of historical monuments, the modes of intervention (e.g. strict conservation, repairs with compatible materials, etc.). In the case of Neamțu manor, the Roman mosaic on the first floor is one of the most valuable items that must be rigorously conserved.

Other analyses necessary to establish the diagnosis are ANALYSIS OF MATERIALS (brick, mortar, and plaster, wood) to determine their composition and their degree of resistance. If there are several types of materials, it is recommended to test most of them. If there are areas with high humidity, humidity measurements in the depth of the walls or construction elements are also recommended. In the case of organic materials (wood), the biochemical analysis of the elements is also recommended, in order to establish if there are also biological attacks and of what type.

The GEOTECHNICAL STUDY refers to the analysis of the soil and building foundations. It is done by surveying the foundations and analysing the soil layers to determine their resistance and the presence of moisture in the soil.

The TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEY is necessary to analyse the position of the house on the ground and how rainwater drains at ground level. Often around the old houses the land has risen in time and the water drains wrongly, towards the house, being one of the main factors of degradation.

All information collected is analysed in terms of structural stability (geometric composition - survey, the resistance of materials and soil, etc.) and establishes a complete diagnosis of the building as well as intervention recommendations and priorities.

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