CECH (Climate and Energy for Cultural Heritage)


Established at the end of 2014 and currently coordinated by Cesare Maria Joppolo, the Laboratory investigates indoor climate and energy efficiencies during the conservation, restoration and use of historical buildings and their fixed, installed or movable cultural heritage, especially when they are used as museums. It is the site of research and technological service activities for industry and the region and is the result of an interdepartmental partnership between the Department of Energy and the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU). This partnership coordinates and develops synergies between the researchers of the DAStU's "Laboratory for analysis and diagnostics of the built environment" led by Prof. Alberto Grimoldi, Full Professor of Architectural Restoration, the AIRLAB research group (Green&HiTech AirConditioning), the Laboratory of Technical Physics and Installations for Cultural Heritage, and the Department of Energy, led by Prof. Cesare Maria Joppolo, Full Professor of Environmental Technical Physics.

Indoor climate is a set of physical and chemical values and conditions found in the internal environment of buildings. These fundamentally determine people's health, comfort and productivity and the physical, chemical and biological mechanisms of potential damage to historical and artistic artefacts and the building materials of sites where they are preserved. The goal is to obtain suitable thermo-hygrometric and indoor air quality conditions as the external conditions and building uses change, by combining different choices relating to the building’s configuration, materials and external cladding, air conditioning, ventilation components and plant engineering systems.

The design and maintenance of the building’s external cladding and systems and choices relating to indoor climatic conditions and ventilation are crucial for energy consumption and efficiency, to allow the use of renewable energy sources and for environmental sustainability.

The CECH Laboratory deals with the technical and scientific development of environmental quality and climate control issues of historical buildings and cultural heritage.

  • It promotes and uses expertise in monitoring and evaluating existing conditions.
  • It contributes to the identification and implementation of preventive conservation, maintenance, and recovery measures.
  • It supports research on the knowledge and measurement of the energy potential of historical buildings, the minimum operations to control Indoor Environment Quality. It examines techniques for building adaptation and restoration and installations for heritage which is crucial for size and value. The Laboratory is interested in developing careful and respectful solutions within existing constraints and the climate situation while tackling outdoor air pollution.


The existing and newly acquired equipment is located in previously allocated spaces in the two consortium departments:

  • AIRLAB/ Laboratory of Technical Physics and Systems for Cultural Heritage, Department of Energy, Headquarters: Building BL25, Via Lambruschini 4, 20156 Milan
  • Laboratory of Building Analysis and Diagnostics, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Headquarters: Building 29, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 26, 20133 Milan


The skills and equipment brought to CECH by the building analysis and diagnostics Laboratory are focused on non-destructive and micro destructive diagnostics for preliminary and complementary investigations in conservation projects, using:

  • documentary and archival research,
  • stratigraphic measurements,
  • recognition and monitoring of degradation phenomena,
  • non-destructive surveying and thermal analysis with infrared thermography,
  • chemical, physical, and mineralogical investigations of building components
  • monitoring of the thermo-hygrometric exchange dynamics between environment and masonry.

AIRLAB and the Laboratory of Technical Physics and Installations for Cultural Heritage skills, tools and previous experience converge at the new laboratory covering the energy and environmental aspects related to building components and air conditioning and ventilation systems. Worth mentioning are:

  • measurement and monitoring of indoor environmental conditions, thermal comfort indices and energy consumption,
  • measurement of speed, flow rate and display of air movements (hot wire anemometers, balometers, calibrated mouthpieces and diaphragms, aerosol generators, and gas tracers)
  • optical particle counters (OPC) and active microbiological samplers for measurements of air-based particulates and bio-contaminants and in indoor environments,
  • Infrared photoacoustic spectrometer for measuring air-based vapours and gaseous contaminants (with multi-point sampler and dispenser),
  • thermostatic and controlled contamination chamber and circuit for testing the emission of contaminants, diffusion and air filtration,
  • performance measurements on air handling units, air humidification and dehumidification systems and energy recovery units,
  • fluid dynamics (CFD), energy and environmental simulation tools for buildings and air-conditioning systems - performance measurements of museum display cases (airtightness of the enclosure and stabilisation of thermal and hygrometric conditions);
  • measurements of steam adsorption and water content in solid materials and building components.

Following CECH Laboratory’s establishment, equipment and activities have been expanded in the following areas:

  1. laboratory study and definition of the materials used in the construction of building components and systems regarding their capacity to stabilise thermal and hygrometric conditions by means of thermal capacity and the capacity for adsorption and desorption of water vapour. Thermogravimetric vapour adsorption analysers define water vapour adsorption isotherms and kinetics by porous solid materials used in cultural heritage building materials and plant engineering components;
  2. study and definition of the in-situ behaviour of building materials and components by upgrading systems (infrared thermovision, Heat Flux Meter and monitoring procedures;
  3. study and definition of the particle and microbiological contaminants (source strength) release rate by means of "body-box" equipment to control the effect of surface soiling and the chemical and biological damage caused by people and equipment in museum environments.

Please note that the initial equipment and acquisitions of the laboratory strengthen the University's role within the cultural heritage, works of art and building conservation and energy efficiency and environmental quality sectors.

Services provided

A. In situ measurements and monitoring of:

  • Indoor and outdoor thermo-hygrometric conditions
  • Indoor and outdoor air quality conditions, i.e. particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, PM1 and nanoparticulate matter), gaseous contaminants and microbiological contaminants concentrations;
  • Human comfort assessment (PMV, PPD, etc.) indices;
  • Indices for assessing the adequacy of physical and chemical conditions for the preventive conservation of materials and cultural heritage;
  • Building natural ventilation conditions, i.e. measurement of the building’s external cladding air permeability and infiltration and exfiltration by means of gas tracers;
  • Building mechanical ventilation conditions, i.e. measurement of flow rates, speed, and ventilation efficiency;
  • Non-destructive surveys of plastered masonry, thermal transmittance measurements, surface temperature measurements and mapping of thermal imbalances, reading under-plaster wall texture using heat flux meters and infrared thermography techniques;
  • Defining heating, cooling and ventilation system terminals operation;
  • Defining power plant and generators of heating, cooling and ventilation systems operation;

B. Laboratory tests and measurements:

  • Defining water vapour adsorption properties of porous solid materials used in building and plant components by Dynamic Vapor Sorption analysis;
  • Measurements of particle, microbiological and gaseous contaminants from human sources, materials and equipment/processes using a “body-box”;
  • Measurement of museum display case airtightness;
  • Stress tests to verify the behaviour of materials under specified environmental conditions and transient variations of such conditions using tests in a controlled contamination thermostatic chamber (whitebox)

C. Scientific and technical consultancy for conservation and restoration projects for buildings and facilities and execution of the project-related preparatory and complementary investigations:

  • documentary and archival research
  • masonry stratigraphic survey
  • building and plant survey
  • recognition of past degradation phenomena
  • optimisation of innovative heating, cooling and ventilation components and systems
  • use of mini-invasive, passive and renewable energy techniques in historic buildings
  • project of mini-environments and display cases with control of thermo-hygrometric and air contamination conditions
  • experimental laboratory tests of model plant components and environments
  • building and system thermal-energy simulation
  • CFD simulation of indoor environments, plant components and ventilation systems.

Procedures and costs of using equipment

The equipment and skills can be used for research, consultancy, and laboratory testing. Costs and times will be evaluated and shown in a technical-financial quotation following a request (addressed to the interdepartmental Laboratory contact person).

Contact Point
Cesare M. Joppolo
Ph. +39.02.2399.3865

Management Committee

  • Stefano De Antonellis (DENG)
  • Davide Del Curto (DASTU)
  • Alberto Grimoldi (DASTU)
  • Cesare M. Joppolo (DENG)