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Unusual Design Influences a Building’s Biocolonization Pattern and Complicates Remediation

  • Carol A. Grissom
  • Jane Sledge
  • A. Elena Charola
Chapter

Abstract

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) opened its doors for the first time to the public on September 21, 2004. Designed by Douglas Cardinal, the building stands out from other museums on the National Mall in Washington, DC, because of its curvilinear shape and the yellow golden color of its stone, which are intended to recall cliff dwellings of the American Southwest. Biocolonization on the stonework, a consequence of both the building’s design and the stone’s porosity and facture, has resulted in five cleaning campaigns over the 13 years since the building’s inauguration. Such frequent cleaning, three times with the same biocide, is expensive and potentially self-defeating. Microorganisms tend to become resistant to biocides, and/or new organisms may develop that are even more aggressive. Since a pristine building is preferred by its stakeholders, alternative approaches are being explored to prevent biocolonization. Any alteration of the building’s architecture has been rejected, and pressurized water washing is considered inadvisable as an alternative to biocidal cleaning. Good results reported for inhibition of biocolonization by zinc strips led to their testing on a Kasota limestone block, which proved very effective, and in February 2012 zinc strips were installed in two locations on the NMAI building. After several years the blocks showed localized reduction of biocolonization, but the strips have not yet been proven successful in reducing biocolonization on the building’s façade. Installation of zinc sheets to cover top surfaces of capstones is in the process of implementation in two test areas. The nonuniform flow of water over the irregular surfaces on the façade below, however, is likely to result in incomplete inhibition of biocolonization by the zinc. Moreover, randomly projecting blocks scattered across the facade cannot be protected by zinc strips without interfering with the building’s appearance. Alternative biocides and methods of inhibition are also being considered. These include incorporation of zinc compounds in hydraulic lime parging on capstones, a technique that might be used on window sills and capstones that are not visible from the ground; it should inhibit biocolonization on these surfaces and possibly on the façade below them.

Keywords

National Museum of the American Indian Canadian Museum of History Calcitic dolomite Biocolonization Cyanobacteria Cleaning Biocides Zinc strips 

Notes

Acknowledgment

For assistance with this study, the authors would like to thank Alain Proulx, Head of Architectural Technology, Canadian Museum of History; Robert Robertson, Operations Manager, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution; Jeffrey Batchelor, Assistant Facilities Manager, Smithsonian Facilities (SF); Steven GaNun, Maintenance Mechanic, SF; and John Allen Pinkerton, Mason, SF. Finally, the advice and support of MCI Director Robert J. Koestler and Deputy Director Paula DePriest have been crucial throughout the study of the building. The authors would also like to thank colleagues Mel Wachowiak and E. Keats Webb for photographs in Figs. 18.1 and 18.2.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol A. Grissom
    • 1
  • Jane Sledge
    • 2
  • A. Elena Charola
    • 3
  1. 1.Museum Conservation InstituteSmithsonian InstitutionSuitlandUSA
  2. 2.National Museum of the American IndianSmithsonian InstitutionWashington, DCUSA
  3. 3.Museum Conservation InstituteSuitlandUSA

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