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Termites as restoration allies

Eduardo Cesar Formulation using termite mound earth can be used in historic building restorationEduardo Cesar

Termite mound earth, preferably moistened with the occupants’ saliva, has proven to be a valuable ingredient in a new formulation of mortar used to restore the original features of walls in historic buildings constructed using crude earth. A team led by chemist Andrea Cavicchioli, a professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), along with researchers from the Catadupa Farm Socio-Environmental Institute and Argentina’s Regional Center for Research on Crude Earth Architecture, tested several combinations based on raw materials easily found in what is known as the São Paulo Historic Valley. This was the first region occupied by coffee plantations in the state of São Paulo, in the early 19th century. The oldest buildings there are in a precarious state of conservation. The formulation that performed best in the adherence and erosion/water resistance tests conducted at Catadupa Farm in São José do Barreiro has several ingredients: termite mound earth and double-fine sand (sifted and mixed with fibers of a grass common to the region), in addition to a watery extract from cacti of the genus Opuntia. The study’s findings were presented at a conference on earth-based architecture and buildings, held in Asunción, Paraguay, in October 2016.