Structural steel is frequently specified – particularly for larger buildings such as blocks of flats and office buildings – because of its high strength and, importantly, its longevity without losing that strength.
But efforts to improve the ‘sustainability’ of our built environment could actually be putting not just structural steel, but other materials like concrete and stone at risk.
Scientists at the University of Southampton explain that volatile organic compounds emitted by some plants react with chemicals naturally present in the air, and can subsequently corrode a wide variety of building materials.
The solution isn’t to change the building materials we use, but simply to grow ‘the right kind of plants’ in our urban green spaces.
For instance, Douglas fir and sycamore maple trees can both lead to a higher concentration of ozone at ground level, particularly during the summer months.
Dr Abhishek Tiwary of the University of Southampton said: “In the future, city planners should look into the species of vegetation they plant in green spaces.
“Such consideration might improve the structural longevity of buildings of historical importance.”