The right materials for the right place – overall moisture control is a priority

Greater energy efficiency is being sought from more and more materials. The challenge can lie in lack of overall control.

“Industry is continuously developing its products and seeking the lowest possible carbon footprint for construction. Energy efficiency and environmental standards require closer overall management," says Juha Vinha, Professor of Building Physics at the University of Tampere .

"More research findings, both computational and experimental, are needed on this. It’s okay to develop the energy efficiency and environmental aspects of building materials, but this can significantly reduce their moisture performance. A low carbon footprint also means ensuring that structures and materials last longer, without repairs,” states Vinha.

Vinha points out that much more information is needed on the physical properties of building materials. In addition to moisture transfer properties, factors such as mould sensitivity are becoming increasingly important.

Challenges are also created by the wide variance in the properties of many materials. There is currently very little information about aging which, like differences in the manufacturing process, causes variations in the physical properties of building materials.

"For example, there can be major differences between manufacturers in terms of the moisture performance of plaster and concrete-based products. These properties are ultimately shaped by the overall production process," Vinha says.

Vinha states that challenges are posed by factors such as the protracted drying times of concrete.

“In some cases, a very long drying time may be needed to ensure that structures dry properly. Unfortunately, insufficient allowance is made for this in some project schedules, and concrete floors are surfaced when too wet,” he comments.