Dictated by the unavoidable need to have better, more durable and more sustainable materials, CMR Laboratory Ltd. (Center Materials Research) - MGN's own in-house lab - has been established in 2003. This cutting-edge lab, accredited by Accredia (Italy's national accreditation body), is dedicated to in-house research, analysis of building materials, with particular attention to their thermal performance.
Internally, the Laboratory consists of two different divisions:
- Restoration and Cultural Heritage division
- Construction materials and energy conservation division
carrying out a wide range of tests such as:
- Analysis and tests on brick and masonry samples
- Analysis of the deterioration of historic buildings
- Chemical tests on mortars, plasters, paints and various waterproofing materials
- Cementitious products and base resins testing
- Physico-chemical and petrographic analysis of construction materials
- Tests on wood and wooden materials
- Biological analysis of wood samples
Over the years the Laboratory has expanded its services into other sectors of activity, offering:
- Thermal tests of insulation and building materials (both in winter and summer regime)
- Performance testing of materials and floor heating system
- Environmental certifications and environmental product declarations (EPD)
The laboratory is equipped with cutting-edge technological equipment, so all tests and analyses meet or exceed national and European building standards, and are valid internationally.
Here are some of the specific tests performed to help architects, builders and manufacturers find clear-cut answers to many problems encountered in both old and new buildings.
1. U-value (Thermal Transmittance) Tests
U-value measures the transmission of heat through a building material. It measures a wall's ability to conduct heat from a warmer environment to a cooler one. It is an indication of heat loss. The higher the U-value (heat loss) the worse the thermal performance of the wall or building. Well insulated buildings have low U-value.
Laboratory tests have shown that dampness can greatly increases a walls' U-value (heat loss) by up to 40%.
2. Thermal Conductivity Tests (λ)
Thermal conductivity, also known as Lambda (denoted by the greek symbol λ), measures how easily heat flows through a specific material. It is a native material specific property which is independent of its thickness, unlike U-values which take into account on the thickness of
Lambda influences U-values, a natively good insulating material (with low thermal conductivity) can contribute to better U-Values (less heat loss). The lower the thermal conductivity, the better heat insulator the material is.
3. Water Absorption Tests (Karsten tube Tests)
Karsten tubes allow for the rapid non-destructive testing of liquid water penetration into porous building materials such as concrete, stone or plaster. The test uses of a glass tube, bonded to a vertical surface test material with plastiline.
4. Vapour Permeability (Breathability) Tests (μ)
Water vapour permeability measures the passage of water vapours through a material. One of the widely used standard testing methods is the "wet cup" method, where a round plaster sample is placed in a cup with saturated salt solution at the bottom, separated from the sample by an air gap - all placed in a climate chamber.
Due to pressure differences, humidity moves through diffusion from the salt solution into the plaster sample. By weighing the sample periodically, the moisture flow can be calculated.
5. Capillary Rising Damp Tests
The lab is testing the effects of capillary rising sea water on different types of masonry - the presence of salts causes severe deterioration and efflorescence to buildings.
6. Resistance to Weather Conditions (fog, rain, heat & cold)
Here is a lab machine that allows the reproduction of particular atmospheric conditions such as pouring rain and fog in order to accurately assess the impact of atmospheric conditions onto the plaster and masonry.
7. Heat Retention Tests
These tests evaluate the behaviour of the materials under variable conditions, to assess how the masonry can even out temperature fluctuations, by taking readings through surface and in-depth sensors.
8. Chemical Analysis
Chemical analysis can provide important information on the various layers of paints and the presence of film-forming non-breathable materials.
9. Material Analysis and Testing
Detailed material analysis is necessary for the exact recreation of historic plasters or the assess the long-term behaviour of materials.
10. Tests on Real Buildings
Here are just two examples of real buildings built in the lab to better monitor and evaluate the behaviour of building materials in real-world conditions.