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16 Apr 2019

Beneath the bricks

Thermodynamics shows where moisture is retained in the building
Thermodynamics shows where moisture is retained in the building
Number 52 in our 100 Ways list is using technology to understand our conservation questions. We’re using the latest techniques to gather information about the places under our protection and how best to protect them for future generations.

We know a wee bit about buildings. And over the years, we’ve gathered so much information and accrued so much expertise about the places in our care. But new technology always arrives to add to that.

At the Hill House, we’ve been using infra-red thermographic (IRT) imaging to help us understand just how the building has been affected by a century of water penetration.

Carried out with the help of Historic Environment Scotland, this technique records differences of surface temperature, which gives an indication of where moisture is retained within the building fabric.

Blue and green shading show damp areas in the building
Blue and green shading show damp areas in the building

Richard Williams, General Manager for Glasgow & West at the National Trust for Scotland, said: ‘By combining the infra-red thermographic survey, the 3D scan and the microwave readings we have a very powerful tool to aid our technical understanding of the complex problems at the Hill House, and a robust baseline before we surround the building with its protective shield.

‘These surveys reinforce what we already knew about the house, which is that it is very damp and has considerable issues that need to be overcome. Due to the design of the Hill House, there are many ledges, wall heads and chimneys that have had a history of many attempts to remedy, yet this problem continues.

‘We’re also now aware of additional areas of concern, such as large sections of harling that have become disengaged from the walls where damp is accumulating, and internal walls we hadn’t realised were so damp.’

Since it was completed in 1904, years of wind and rain have caused significant issues with water ingress. In efforts to protect Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece, we’re in the process of surrounding the building with an innovative mesh structure to protect it from the weather.

Dr Ewan Hyslop, Head of Technical Research & Science at Historic Environment Scotland said: ‘The Hill House is a Mackintosh masterpiece, and this project is a great example of how we can use innovative technology to better understand the risks to historic sites such as this, and inform work to conserve and protect them.’

To tackle this damp problem, the Trust has a pioneering project underway at the Hill House. We're putting a protective steel structure over the entire building to protect the Mackintosh masterpiece from the elements and give it time to dry out before conservation work can begin.

The incredible Hill House Box is taking shape now and is on track to open later this spring, giving visitors the chance to get a fresh perspective on one of Scotland's national treasures.

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

Trust President Neil Oliver checks on the progress of the Hill House Box
Trust President Neil Oliver checks on the progress of the Hill House Box