Structure Relocation – How It Works

Right, so there are property removal projects where people are moving their home or office contents from one location to another, and there are property removal projects which actually relocate the entire building itself from A to B. Obviously, the latter cannot be handled by your average man and van company in Liverpool, but there are specialised engineering organisations across the world which deal effectively in the business of structure relocation. Structure relocation or removal of entire buildings is serious business and represents a very specific industrial niche, where highly qualified structural and mechanical engineers, architects etc. work side by side in order to literally lift, relocate and deliver an entire building from one place to another.

Shubert Theatre, MinneapolisThe technical side of moving an entire building is simply too much and too technical to explain properly in one, two or even ten articles this size, so it will suffice to say that one such engineering feat requires:

  • Extensive planning and perfect organisation of manpower and technical equipment;
  • Various preparation steps covering both the exterior and interior of the structure being moved;
  • Sound understanding of mechanics, physics, material behaviour, mathematics and a whole host of other sciences;

Provided there is sufficient technology, manpower and knowledge invested into a structure relocation project, it is simply astounding what such engineering teams can achieve. Since large scale structure relocation was first attempted in the early nineteen hundreds, these seemingly impossible feats have grown in size and tonnage.

Some of the heaviest buildings ever moved using structure relocation

The Shubert Theatre (2 908 tons) located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US In 1999 the structure was moved quarter mile back to its original location so that city bosses could redevelop the block it occupied without losing the historic building itself.
The Hotel Montgomery (4816 tons) located in San Jose, California, US In 2000 the building had to be moved 55 metres (182 feet) to its current location as a precondition to launching a redevelopment plan set by then San Jose Mayor.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (4830 tons) located in North Carolina, US This structure was relocated inland from the US’ Atlantic coast due to coastal erosion which was threatening to pull the building down into the ocean. The lighthouse was relocated in 1999, at the painstaking speed of 1.5 metres every 45 seconds, over 23 days.
Newark International Airport Building 51 (7400 tons) located in Newark, US The move took place in 2000/2001 due to a runway expansion project. Airport building 51 moved three quarters of a mile, at a speed of 30.5 metres an hour.
Fu Gang Building (15 140 tons) located in Guangxi Province of China This is the most audacious and large structure relocation in modern times (the project is in the Guinness Book of Records). Fu Gang Building was successfully moved 36 metres from its previous location over eleven days in 2004.
Abu Simbel (31 000 tons) An ancient Egyptian temple had to be moved in the 1960s due to a nearby lake overflow. This gigantic structure relocation took 2 years and was funded by donations coming from 52 countries. The structure was moved the staggering 213 metres uphill.