The physiology and decay in buildings morphology of fungal
Fungi damage buildings by using timber as a food source, weakening and ultimately destroying it. The buildings of human beings have existed only in the last 20000 years while the earliest known fossils of Basidiomycete wood decay fungi are about 300 million years old (Meyen, 1987). Thus the fungi which damage buildings by rotting timber have evolved in the wild to use wood as a source of food, each species with its own preferred habitat in terms of physical and chemical variables, its own ‘ecophysiology’. The preference reflects the conditions under which the fungus is best able to survive and compete with rival organisms, and is different for each species. If the conditions in the building reproduce those that the fungus has evolved to flourish in, the timbers will be liable to decay. This chapter describes some of the aspects of Basidiomycete and Ascomycete ecophysiology that make them able to grow in buildings.