China has just moved a five-story building to a new location. How did they do that?

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Residents of Shanghai passing through the eastern district of Huangpu earlier this month may have come across an unusual sight: a building “on its own two feet.”

An 85-year-old primary school was raised from the ground – in its entirety – and moved with the help of new technology supranumite “the walking machine”.

Moving the 7,600-ton structure posed a number of unique challenges, different from standard building relocation efforts that would use rails or vehicles.

Previous efforts to relocate the building to the city involved square or rectangular structures, but the irregular T-shape of the school meant that the usual methods of pulling or sliding a building could have put too much pressure on the structure.

The walking machine in action

In the city’s latest effort to preserve historic structures, engineers attached nearly 200 mobile mounts under the five-story building, according to Lan Wuji, the project’s chief technical supervisor.

The supports act like robotic legs. They are divided into two groups that rise alternately up and down, mimicking the human step. The attached sensors help control how the building progresses, said Lan, whose company, Shanghai Evolution Shift, developed the new technology in 2018.

“It’s like offering crutches to the building so they can stand and then walk,” he said.

According to a statement from the Huangpu district government, Lagena Elementary School was built in 1935 by the city council of the former French concession in Shanghai.

It has been moved to make way for a new shopping and office complex, which will be completed by 2023.

The workers first had to dig around the building to install the 198 mobile supports in the spaces below, Lan explained. After the pillars of the building were cut, the robotic “legs” were then extended upwards, lifting the building before moving on.

Over the course of 18 days, the building was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters away to its new location. The relocation was completed on October 15, the old school building will become a center for heritage protection and cultural education.

The project marks the first time this “walking machine” method has been used in Shanghai to relocate a historic building, the government’s statement said.


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