Rebuilding After A Fire
How Is That Foundation?

Rebuilding After A Fire

After a major calamity like a massive fire, eventually property owners and whole communities start to explore how to rebuild. Ausland Group includes engineers that understand how to evaluate the path forward when the process of rebuilding a commercial building or multi-family structure begins.

“The higher up in the structure you investigate, the more problems there will be,” says Scott Metzler, Ausland’s senior structural engineer with nearly 35 years of experience in the rehabilitation of commercial, industrial, and educational facilities throughout the State. Usually an investigation will reveal that the foundation and everything in the ground beneath it is suitable for reconstruction.

Toxicity of the burning of other construction elements, such as asbestos or plastics, may make the site contaminated to the extent it is easiest to clear the entire site, but it may also be quicker and more efficient to rebuild (if permitted by local code) on the remaining foundation. One key thing Ausland Group will evaluate is the integrity of the concrete – looking for excessive cracking or the creation of small gaps in the concrete that can result from a loss of compaction caused by the heat. “It is actually better to have allowed the fire to burn itself out, for the concrete, rather than suddenly cooled with water,” says Metzler.

There are advanced techniques for evaluating your foundation beyond just looking at it; infrared scans can show key elements of how the foundation was initially built and a Swiss hammer test will also send a signal into the concrete, allowing for return of information about its strength and durability. Remember that concrete will naturally show some cracking, but we are looking for cracks greater than 1/16th of an inch or a change in the horizontal slab.

If there is evaluation of some of the existing building to be done to design a rebuild, metal elements must be carefully inspected for any twisting or warping that will impact the load baring integrity of them. Surprising to many people, structural wood elements that survive a fire can actually maintain the load bearing capability better than metal.

Ausland Group is ready and willing to help assist Oregon businesses chart a path forward. We are a broad team of design and construction professionals who are excited to support our communities and quickly find ways to begin rebuilding them.

If your business was lost in the recent fires throughout the State and you wish to rebuild, call us today for a free consultation. 

Kara Bijesse | September 16, 2020

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