Degree completed in 2018.

'Wet walls': developing 4D moisture monitoring techniques for stone masonry



Academic Profile

Scott Allan Orr is a doctoral student in the School of Geography and the Environment as a member of the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory. His current research considers built heritage as complex chemical systems to better understand their physical change in response to environmental change, in order to inform policy development and conservation practice.

Scott graduated with honours from the University of Toronto with a BASc in chemical and environmental engineering, where he contributed to projects incorporating environmental monitoring, urban spatial distribution of atmospheric aerosols, and heritage preservation. Most recently, he has completed an MRes at UCL in Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage, and Archaeology (SEAHA) which forms the basis for his current research.

Research interests

  • non-destructive testing
  • heritage preservation
  • moisture monitoring
  • dynamics of stone deterioration
  • climate change threats to the traditional built environment

Awards and funding

  • Canadian Centennial Scholarship (2016), Canadian Centennial Scholarship Foundation in partnership with The Maple Leaf Trust.
  • Study bursary (2016), York Consortium for Conservation & Craftsmanship.
  • Santander Academic Travel Award (2016). University of Oxford.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Postgraduate Doctoral Scholarship (2015-2018), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
  • Exceptional Doctoral Scholarship (2015-2016), UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage, and Archaeology.

Current Research

At least fifty percent of buildings that will be in use in 2050 have already been built. Being able to quantify how moisture interacts with and moves within historical building materials enables their efficient preservation for future generations. While many historical properties incorporating stone are archaeological sites or monuments, a much greater number form a vital component of the 'everyday place'. These buildings should be viewed as a critical component of sustainable infrastructure; as such, investing in their maintenance and upgrade capitalizes on our existing built environment resource, offering an energy- and cost-effective alternative to new construction.

This project seeks to compare and synthesise existing techniques for non-invasively surveying water in stone masonry to develop novel methodologies for monitoring moisture regimes. This analysis of historical walls has typically employed a single imaging technology providing a limited picture of the true potential for damage, including: electrical resistivity, infrared thermography, and microwaves. Through contrasting and combining these various technologies and combining them with ground penetrating radar, it is expected to distinguish between the contributions from moisture, salinity salts, and physical heterogeneity. This supports the development of four-dimensional methodologies for monitoring moisture in stone masonry, enabling efficient and sustainable preservation of traditionally-built structures in the context of a changing and uncertain future climate.

This project is undertaken through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage, and Archaeology (SEAHA) in collaboration with Historic Environment Scotland and the Consarc Design Group.


Journal Articles

Conference Papers

Book Reviews