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Strengthening Europe’s historical buildings

The preservation of historical buildings was the focus of a European consortium which used fibre-reinforced polymers to strengthen the external masonry structures with minimal cultural intervention.
Strengthening Europe’s historical buildings
Historical buildings constitute an integral part of the European cultural heritage. However, many masonry structures are falling apart due to ageing or movements at the buildings’ foundations. It is, therefore, imperative to maintain their structure and appearance, often through preservation actions.

The use of concrete reinforced with glass, polymeric or steel fibres is not a new concept. It increases the strength of the building and its resistance to cracks, temperature and vibration. For historical buildings, however, an external strengthening approach is required.

With this in mind, the EU-funded Operha project proposed to develop an adaptable and reversible restoration solution for strengthening the masonry structures of historical buildings in Europe and the Mediterranean area. For this purpose, project partners decided to use advanced composite materials such as fibre-reinforced polymers.

Special attention was given to the visual impact of the restoration of the ancient building, aiming to perform as few intervention actions as possible on the structure during and after its strengthening. The most important requirements for strengthening the ancient structures were identified and elements for the structural reinforcements were designed and developed.

Comparison with existing techniques indicated that the Operha textile reinforced masonry (TRM) structural strengthening system constituted an 'open' and 'fully compatible' solution for historical buildings. It had minimal cultural impacts on the buildings themselves and it is expected to improve the social and economic conditions of the surrounding inhabitant areas.

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