Effects of soiling and weathering on the albedo of building envelope materials: Lessons learned from natural exposure in two European cities and tuning of a laboratory simulation practice
Chemical and physical stress, weathering, organic and inorganic matter deposition, and microbial growth over time, or “aging”, affect the optical-radiative performance of building envelope materials. Natural exposure helps to quantify these effects, but it usually requires several years. Further, the contribution of the different degradation agents cannot be isolated, and results from different campaigns cannot be easily compared because of the variability in the boundary conditions producing aging. Here we present an adaptation of the protocol implemented by ASTM as D7897-18 “Standard Practice for Laboratory Soiling and Weathering of Roofing Materials to Simulate Effects of Natural Exposure on Solar Reflectance and Thermal Emittance”. The aim is to reproduce in the laboratory the changes in albedo (solar reflectance) and thermal emittance experienced by building envelope materials in European urban areas rather than in the United States. We tuned the spraying duration and weathering cycles, and we compared the UV–vis–NIR reflectances of naturally-aged specimens (48 months in Rome and Milan) of roofing and wall finish materials to those exposed to laboratory weathering and soiling. Excluding those materials that show early physical-chemical degradation, the mean absolute deviation between natural and laboratory exposure of roofing products is equal to 0.027 in albedo. This is a lower value than the differences between two natural exposure campaigns at the same site. We clearly defined the limits of application of the protocol, providing an appraisal of the repeatability of natural aging. Moreover, we identified possible improvements in the methodology to conduct both natural and laboratory exposure.