House lifting specialist puts skills to the test
When Heritage House Relevellers say ‘no job is too big or too small’ they really mean it and at the bigger end of their jobs this year is a contract to lift an old earthquake damaged former convent building in Christchurch.
The convent and its chapel at 319 St Asaph St, designed by architect Benjamin Mountfort and his son Cyril, were built in 1895 for the Anglican sisters of the Community of the Sacred Name.
Following the earthquakes, the sisters decided to relinquish the building and make it available to Home & Family, which had lost its own base of operations and was looking for alternative premises for its head offices and counselling services.
Simon Construction has been appointed for the heritage restoration project now underway and Heritage House Relevellers is working with them to create the necessary access so foundations can be replaced.
That will require lifting the building by 1.5m using hydraulic jacks.
Before that can happen, the building will have to be secured with a steel beam grid system to stop any separation of additions built on over the years.
Once the foundation work has been done, the Heritage House Relevellers team will then have to secure and lower the category-one heritage listed convent back into place. “It’s a building with huge history,” says Lindsay Smith, owner of Heritage House Relevellers.
“We are very aware of its significance and have had to provide a lot of paperwork in order to undertake this job and to be able to lift it so Simon Construction can complete the foundation solution,” he says.
With more than 30 years’ industry experience under his belt, Lindsay is highly experienced in all aspects of relevelling, lifting and rolling buildings, particularly in the residential sector.
The company’s expertise in the field has been further honed as a result of the Canterbury earthquake experience that has brought real advances in techniques and technology.
“We have designed and built equipment that lets us lift houses two to three metres in the air so you can drive a digger underneath them, fix the ground and put a new floor slab in.
“Everything we do is fully certified and all our drawings are checked by engineers before any work proceeds.
“We have worked on some really old buildings, including old churches such as St Bartholomew’s Church in Kaiapoi [which had to be rolled onto adjacent red zone land so new foundations could be put in place, before the church was moved back again].
“A lot of contractors don’t want to work on old buildings because they can be a handful but we like old architecture and it’s a niche market for us.”
At the same time, Heritage House Relevellers is also equipped to work with modern concrete slab housing and has done a lot of relevelling work on brick homes.
Following the Kaikoura earthquake, the company is also quoting on work in the Hurunui district, with an upcoming lift project being the historic Highfield Woolshed near Waiau, which moved off its piles in the quake.
“We are getting other queries involving similar damage that we have seen before in Christchurch, such as houses that have shifted from their foundations and need to be rolled back on or have foundations that need to be fixed.”
Working in this busy family business with Lindsay is his son Marshall, who has been with the company from the start, along with his wife Tarnia and his daughter Nadia who share the responsibilities of managing the office.
Heritage House Relevellers employs nine fulltime staff and has a fleet of 11 vehicles ranging from utility vehicles to trucks equipped with cranes for transporting the gear required for every unique job it tackles.