Science and Heritage Programme

Preparing Historic Collections for Climate Change

University of East Anglia/ English Heritage

Award holder - Professor Peter Brimblecombe
Student Paul Lankester


The project aims to predict the likely major effects of climate change relevant to collections housed in historic buildings over the next century. The project will use models, verified with present climate and environment data, to understand the likely indoor climate of a few rooms from representative building types (through to the end of the present century).  The likely risk profile will then be assessed by modelling the interior environments (with simple models such as EnergyPlus or WUFI) combined with Mould growth modelling. The likely impact on present environmental mitigation strategies will be assessed through an analysis of strategies such as conservation heating, ventilation, enclosures and dehumidification, which are extensively used to control RH.  


  • Assess the way in which future climate will propagate indoors
  • Assess the potential for damage from mould growth
  • Assess the potential for developing strategies for minimising impact of climate change


  • What are the most reliable types of data to create heritage climatologies?
  • What are the most applicable models to adapt to predicting future indoor climate?


This is clearly a complex project with a considerable amount of modelling, so the student will need much guidance in the early stages as they become adept with output from the Hadley model and the use of EnergyPlus. In the first six months they would learn to use EnergyPlus and apply this to contemporary high-time resolution records of indoor and outdoor climate. At the end of this period they will examine the records from more confined spaces (under covers and on densely packed library shelves). This period will also offer the chance to undertake some thermohygric measurements of their own to refine the understanding of the relationship between outdoor climates and specific indoor environments.  Year 2 should find them ready to consider effects, especially mould growth dust adhesion and other factors, while in parallel looking at efficient ways of converting Hadley model output at daily time resolution to the hourly resolution required by building models. Fortunately there is already some experience with this at the School of Environmental Sciences, so by the end of year 2 the student should be able to give a good picture of interior climate and potential damage in a range of rooms at the end of the 20th century.  In year 3, the student will be able to use the modelling work to examine the effectiveness of contemporary conservation strategies in likely climates at the end of the century.


  • An understanding of future indoor climate relevant to historic collections
  • Potential considerations for future management of historic houses and maintain their social and cultural value in a changing climate
  • Provide a basis for management regimes that minimise maintenance costs, while at the same time are efficient in terms of energy use.


Professor Peter Brimblecombe (University of East Anglia) and David Thickett (English Heritage)


Paul Lankester

Paul Lankester’s first degree was Forensic Science studied at the University of Lincoln. He then changed focus slightly, studying for an MSc in Forensic Conservation (Heritage Science), also at Lincoln. This course utilised the analytical skills heavily focussed upon in forensic science and applied these to cultural heritage. This furthered his interest in heritage science and he was fortunate enough to be able to continue along this path by undertaking this PhD.

The aim of Paul’s research is to understand the impacts of climate change upon historic collections. How will outdoor changes in climate impact upon interior environments, and more importantly how will this affect damage to the sensitive collections housed within historic houses, on open display? Predictions of future damage will allow time for appropriate preventive conservation to be in place, minimising the impacts of a changing climate.

Paul has adopted an approach that applies a simple model in order to predict the indoor environment; this mathematically matches the indoor and outdoor environment from measured data at the site. Monthly calibrations are determined, with building related parameters assumed to be constant in the future; these can be applied to outdoor climate predictions in order to predict the indoor environment. 

Once the future indoor environment has been predicted damage to collections can be assessed. Damage functions for materials of importance can be applied to see how the environment will change with respect to damage, allowing for management strategies to be developed in advance.

Paul hopes to be able to develop a computer program that encompasses his work, allowing institutions to input measured site data and predict the future environment and the damage risks associated with this.


Brodsworth Hall