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Structural movement and defects in traditional Scottish residential property
Structural movement can be a source of great concern to the purchasers and owners of historic buildings. Is this concern generally justified or exaggerated? In this overview of the topic, the author provides some advice on the assessment of traditional buildings, distinguishing between the role of the building surveyor and that of the structural engineer, and reviews some key issues including: the inevitability that buildings will be subject to movement (even modern well-engineered buildings); the advantages of flexibility provided by lime mortars in traditional buildings; the composite nature of traditional buildings and the interface between masonry and timber framed elements resulting in cracking that may not be of great concern, the implications of ill-advised alterations; the psychology of cracks in building leading sometimes to needless anxiety; some case studies illustrating that some traditional buildings may conceal serious defects; and others that superficially appear to be in a parlous state, but may in fact be stable. The use of steel in hostile environments may give a false sense of security as a replacement for decayed timbers.
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David Gibbon is a Chartered Building Surveyor (MRICS) and Chartered Building Engineer (MCABE). He is also accredited in Conservation by RICS (RICS Certified Historic Buildings Professional). He has over 35 years of post-qualification experience. He is one of the founding directors of GLM, a firm of chartered building surveyors, architects and project managers based in Edinburgh. The practice undertakes a wide range of alteration, refurbishment, repair and conservation projects to historic, traditional and modern buildings along with pre-acquisition surveys of old, unusual, historic and dilapidated buildings including tenemental buildings in Scotland.