Research news

Sensors in benches help measure the life expectancy of wood

Project Durasoft - Bench at Velika planina
Photography: Dr. Miha Humar

Publish Date: 17.11.2020

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 12 Responsible consumption and production, 13 Climate action (Indicators)

 Wood is the only raw material in relative abundance in Slovenia. In recent years, wood construction has been growing in importance. However, the wide adoption of wood is mainly hindered by the fact that it decomposes. In nature, these processes are desirable, but when wood is used in construction we want to slow them down as much as possible. The key piece of information for designers and architects is the durability of wood left outdoors, which depends on the type of wood, the protective treatment and the microclimate. Since these variables cannot be determined from the literature, we will obtain them in field tests conducted in key Slovenian regions.

To this end, we set up wooden benches at five Slovenian (Seča, Bilje, Ljubljana, Velika planina, Pesnica) and one cross-border location (Doberdob). The benches are designed to model a wood façade and a terrace. They are made of spruce, red pine, and larch – Slovenia’s main coniferous trees. The spruce wood components are partially treated with a copper-based biocide or thermally modified. Both treatment processes have been developed at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. Individual components are fitted with wood moisture sensors. Our models show that decomposition of spruce wood occurs after about 300 days when the wood moisture content exceeds 25%. Based on moisture measurements, we can thus estimate the lifespan of wood at each of the locations after only a few years.

The study is part of the DURASOFT project, co-financed by the Interreg Italia-Slovenia 2014-2020 programme, which promotes the sustainable use of native coniferous woods and marsh reeds in the northern Adriatic and southern Alps.  The resistance of wood against pests can be improved with the appropriate protective treatments. Biocides and innovative methods ensure the durability of native wood that is comparable to that of exotic wood or plastic materials, but with a significantly lower carbon footprint. The benches are just one of the tools used in the tests. The project started on 1 March 2020 and will run until 28 February 2022.

The project in Slovenia is coordinated by Miha Humar, which is employed by Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. His research work focuses on the problems of the durability of wood, wooden cultural heritage, the development of classical biocidal and non-biocidal solutions for wood preservation. For these purposes, he established the first comprehensive field for wood testing. In his work, he collaborates closely with industry.


Bench in Seča


Durasoft - Bench in Seča

Bench at the BF Horticulture Centre in Bilja



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