Things to Consider for a Historic Building Structure Relocation

Sometimes it goes beyond “a little to the left.”

There are many famous cases of historical building relocation. Owners carry these out for a variety of reasons, from preservation to the expansion of a building nearby. What they all have in common is the sheer complexity of the process.

In this post, we’ll look at all the considerations that go into structure relocation.

house movers with house on a truck

Preparation

A lot of work goes into preparing structure relocation before anything happens onsite. For instance:

  • For starters, surveyors must assess the structural integrity of the building. If the building is in a poor state of repair or will suffer from being lifted off its foundations, this will be a barrier to the operation.
  • The owner of the building will also need to apply for various permits. Changes to a historic building might require approval. They’ll also need planning permission for the original site and its destination.
  • Transporting a building also has a major impact on local traffic. Communication with transport authorities is vital.

Equipment and Expertise

It’s not too surprising that moving an entire building from its foundation requires specialized equipment.

To prevent the building falling to pieces, a temporary steel structure is usually erected. This acts as a temporary foundation. Hydraulic jacks are then used to raise the structure from its foundation.

Wooden structures known as cribbing beams support the jacks and the structure from underneath. Once these are in place, workers load the structure onto dollies or a truck to move the building.

Obstacles

Houses weren’t exactly made to travel. They’re larger cargo than almost anything else traveling over land. That means there are few roads wide enough to carry houses without disrupting traffic.

Beyond roads, there are other things to consider. For instance:

  • There’s a good chance of trees getting in the way on any route.
  • Dramatic changes in terrain like steep hills or ravines can pose problems.
  • Bridges or railroads can also make moving from A to B a headache.

Before transporting the building, the owner will need to commission a survey of all the obstacles likely to impede the route. They’ll then need to factor this into the cost. Depending on the obstacles, it may turn out to be impossible to move the building.

Across or Down?

Not all structure relocation involves moving the building away from its current spot.

A common alternative is to temporarily raise the house so work can be carried out underneath. This work might be strengthening the foundations or creating additional basement-level space.

In some cases, particularly with historic buildings, this is a cheaper alternative to extending the building itself. Changes to the structure of the building might be prohibited or there may be concerns about keeping its historic character.

Structure Relocation: A Complex Problem

It’s clear to see that structural relocation is a complex problem with many considerations. Only skilled surveyors and haulers can ensure it goes off without a hitch. When it does happen, it’s one of the most impressive engineering feats around.

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