Moving house the hard way: load cells and building relocation
Published On: March 11 2021
Last week San Fransisco resident turned out in their droves as Tim Brown moved his home six blocks from Franklin Street to Fulton Street. But this was no ordinary house move. The two storey, 139 year old building known as the Englander House was literally uprooted, loaded onto a set of wheels and gently towed to a new site at a snail’s pace speed of 1mph.
House moving specialist Phil Joyhad to secure permits from more than 15 separate city departments to make the move possible. In perhaps the understatement of the week, Mr Joy said the move was initially more challenging because the first section of the journey involved going downhill. “That’s always difficult for a house,” he said.
As the video above shows, it involved some very tight turns, tree trimming and traffic sign removal, before the house was successfully rolled into its new location. As the San Fransisco Chronicle reported:
“The site at 807 Franklin Street is to become a 48-unit, eight-story apartment building, while the transported Victorian will be anchored at 635 Fulton Street and converted to seven residential units.”
It was also a very expensive move, costing Mr Brown around $400,000 in fees and permits.
And we are absolutely certain load cells would have been involved in lifting the house off its foundations, and checking the load distribution on the giant dollies (wheel bases).
House moving in San Fran: a rich history
This kind of house move was actually remarkably common in San Fransisco. Back in the 1880s, houses were pulled over the hills on oiled planks to relocate them, and some were brought in on ships and then transported. In the 1970s, twelve historic houses were saved from demolition under the Western Addition development scheme. As some great photos in a local history site and in The Guardian show, the process didn’t change much from the 1970s to this latest move.
How do you move a building?
According to How Stuff Works, the process is actually fairly simple:
“The builder cuts openings in the building’s foundation and installs steel beams for structural support. Hydraulic jacks are also installed under the structure; the jacks are connected by a central control system that monitors the pressure on each jack and keeps the building level. The building is jacked up, rubber dollies are installed below and the structure begins its slow crawl to its new destination.”
Moving large buildings in the USA
The process of moving large buildings is not unique to houses either. In 2000, the four-storey San Fransisco Hotel Montgomery was moved just 182 feet down the street at a cost of $3million, with the whole project costing more than $8.5 million. When the oldest theatre in Minneapolis, USE, the Shubert Theater was moved, it took 12 days and required five bulldozers, 100 hydraulic jacks and 70 dollies.
Ancient building, modern methods
Perhaps one of the most famous building moves in recent times was at Abu Simbel in Nubia, Egypt. Threatened by the rising waters of Lake Nassar, a reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam, the temples were moved 65 metres up and 200 metres back from the water’s edge. The two temples were cut into blocks of between 20 and 30 tons each, lifted and reassembled against an artificial hill to replicate their original position carved into the cliff face.