My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Monitoring at St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Centre for Sustainable Heritage at UCL, where I am based for my PhD is right now carrying out an environmental monitoring campaign at St. Paul’s Cathedral, with a particular emphasis on the library within. The reason for this is that there are plans to increase access to this area of the cathedral. However, prior to this being put in action it is essential to understand better the environmental conditions in the area to ensure that the changes occurring are done in as sustainable a manner as possible.

The environmental monitoring campaign involves the monitoring of a number of parameters. The main parameters investigated are temperature and RH, traffic-generated pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, and the measurement of VOCs. So far I have been involved in the monitoring of VOCs. Having carried out a similar monitoring campaign at TNA for my PhD my supervisor asked me if I was interested in getting involved in this project at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was definitely up for it: the more projects I am involved in, the more experience and knowledge I gain…that’s never a bad thing. I carried out two VOCs monitoring schedules, one in spring and one in summer.

However, last week my supervisor asked me if I was willing to help out in some other monitoring, this time to measure the air ventilation exchange rate which was being carried out in collaboration with the building environment group in the department (the CSH is based within the faculty of the Built Environment). The monitoring process this time round involved the release of carbon dioxide into the library space and then measuring the rate of loss over time while changing the conditions (such as which doors are open) at known intervals, according to relevant standards. This would allow a better understanding of how different ways of managing the space in terms of people visiting would affect the environmental conditions.

As my supervisor had to be out of town attending a conference, it fell to me to organise the last bits and pieces for this monitoring. This mainly involved figuring out regulators for the carbon dioxide cylinders. The regulators we had in the centre were not appropriate for our requirements, which meant that we tried to obtain them from outside the department (and the university as it came). After a lot of calls, testings, trials and tribulations (OK I am exaggerating a bit here :P) we got our regulators, so that monitoring on Thursday proceeded smoothly.

It was the first time I was involved in something like this, and it was an interesting experience. It is always good to see people form different backgrounds (in this case it was people from conservation, chemistry, building environment) coming together to produce something together…the different insights brought into the discussions is always enlightening.

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One Response

  1. […] to see that. It concerns the environmental monitoring work done at The National Archives and at St. Paul’s Cathedral, together with measurements done at the National and University Library in Ljubljana and the […]

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