Structural Movement – What is there to know about it?

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Over recent years, people’s expectations of building performance have become unreasonably high due to technology, intelligence and a number of elements.

As we well know, the forces of nature are capable of near enough anything including what we have seen with the recent floods, so we must assume that a building will also not last indefinitely. Regular maintenance and occasional structural intervention is essential to slow the process of deterioration and to extend the life of its structure.


Structure is parts of the building fabric which confer significant strength, stability, and integrity, such as roof carcassing, floors, walls, frameworks, and foundations form the principal structural elements. Non-structural fabric such as plaster, render, windows and doors can also help stiffen a structure but their contribution is not to be relied upon in a significant way.


Subsidence, settlement, heave, sway, bouncy floors, bulging walls, cracks, expansion and contraction are all forms of structural movement. Such movement occurs all the time, and usually its magnitude is so small it passes unnoticed. Only when distortions and cracks threaten the use or safety of the structure need we be concerned.


New structures are designed to carry their own weight and imposed loads so that strains are kept within reasonable limits; safety factors are included to cater for variations in quality of materials, design and construction inaccuracies, and random or accidental forces. In historic structures detrimental movement results from inadequate design and construction, decay and ill-considered alterations.

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