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Experimental procedure for studying the degradation and alteration of limestone slabs applied on exterior cladding

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The studied limestone is a well known Portuguese natural stone that occurs in Valverde—Alcanede region, located in the Maciço Calcário Estremenho (center of Portugal). This stone is used in several exterior and interior applications such as paving, cladding, masonry and decorations. Slabs made of the studied limestone were installed in ventilated facade with a “kerf” anchoring system in a building located in Valencia (Spain). After approximately five years, signs of degradation were detected on the facades through changes in color, enhancment of cracks and fissures that caused instability and collapse on several slabs. Limestone slabs comprise irregular patterns due to rock cutting across stylolites. These features represent ideal paths for fluid circulation through the slab and can be identified as vulnerability zones for exterior applications. Experimental procedure included several laboratory analyses to study clays and the iron oxide contents. Microscopic petrography, XRD and SEM observations were important to identify the interaction of the clay material in stylolites and fossil contours. Results show the importance of establishing standard methods for selecting stone on cladding applications. From the results, it is possible to understand that clay minerals have a strong influence on the mechanical performance of this stone. Among other important remarks, results show the importance of the development of standard procedures that acknowledge the structure and mineral composition before setting these natural products as construction materials. Proper stone selection was found important to avoid facade degradation, and hence contribute to prevent accidents and promote user safety as well as economic impacts.

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The authors are grateful to Professor Francisco Braz Fernandes (CENIMAT/NOVA SST) for the preparation of the XRD spectra and to Dra. Maria Eduarda Ferreira for the help in the determination of the clay fraction content.


V. Pires gratefully acknowledges the support of Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) under the project UIDB/04449/2020 e UIDP/04449/2020.

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VP: Conceptualization, resources, methology, formal analysis, writing-reviewing and editing. PMA: Conceptualization, formal analysis, writing-reviewing and editing. JARS: conceptualization, resources, methology, formal analysis, writing-reviewing and editing. CG: Conceptualization, formal analysis, writing-reviewing and editing.

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Correspondence to V. Pires.

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This article is part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on “Building Stones and Geomaterials through History and Environments—from Quarry to Heritage. Insights of the Conditioning Factors”, guest edited by Siegfried Siegesmund, Luís Manuel Oliveira Sousa, and Rubén Alfonso López-Doncel.

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Pires, V., Amaral, P.M., Simão, J.A.R. et al. Experimental procedure for studying the degradation and alteration of limestone slabs applied on exterior cladding. Environ Earth Sci 81, 59 (2022).

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