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Stephen McCabe

Business Alliance Manager
Queen’s University Belfast

Built-Heritage, Natural-Processes, Geomorphology

Tell us about your background and your current role…

I am an environmental geomorphologist with a broad background in geography and archaeology, and an environmental policy officer. Since completing my PhD in 2007, I have worked on a series of high profile research projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Historic Scotland, most recently investigating the impacts of contemporary climate change on natural stone structures in the UK (since 2009). Science/policy interface is crucial – I enjoy working with end–users to see research impact on policy and practice.

With regard to climate change what are the current issues facing your sector/area of expertise?

I am interested in the potential of climate downscaling models to feed into numerical hygrothermal models simulating moisture movement through porous materials. Aesthetic problems around biological colonisation of historic buildings, which is likely to be related to moisture conditions in underlying stone (increasingly an issue for building owners). Moisture penetration through porous building stone (damp problems due to saturation of stone, also increasingly an issue). Changing patterns of decay/weathering as a result of changing climate.

With regard to climate change, what do you expect the future issues and solutions to be in your sector/area of expertise?

Getting to grips with physical complexity is essential – non–linearity in the climate system interacts with non–linearity in the stone micro–environment, which in turn interacts with non–linearity in stone material response. Smart building materials are a key way forward – either materials with built–in sensors to give warning of the penetration of moisture/soluble salts, or where materials themselves can give the early warning of decay processes.