Structural relocation in Auckland, New Zealand

Dear Evil Engineer: Could I move my entire house to somewhere more inspiring?

Image credit: Dreamstime

A cabin-feverish villain seeks a change of scene during lockdown

Dear Evil Engineer,

Like everybody else at this time, I find myself unable to leave home without putting undue strain on the NHS (I may be evil but I’m not stupid). I had spent 12 weeks helping a client coordinate a plan to kidnap dozens of the world’s most beloved scientists at a summer science festival, but the event – and therefore my plan – has been called off in accordance with social distancing.

Since then, work has been hard to come by and I feel lost. I know that I should be agile as a freelancer and find ways to turn this situation to my advantage, but inspiration and motivation elude me. I’ve found myself sitting in the same Mao suit for days at a time, rewatching ‘Tiger King’, and occasionally hijacking a Zoom meeting to shout expletives at virtual attendees. I feel that this environment I’m surrounded by is unhelpful; I live in a two-bed semi in Dulwich with nothing to see out of the window but an abandoned construction site and charred mobile mast.

A change of scene could be what I need to get the creative juices flowing again. Would it be possible to move my house out of South London overnight to somewhere more conducive to evil scheming (such as an abandoned Welsh quarry) so I can get started with work again – all without breaching lockdown conditions?


A cabin-feverish villain


Dear villain,

During these extraordinary times, we shouldn’t self-flagellate as our routines and motivation vaporise. You may see your peers boasting on LinkedIn about how they have exploited this crisis as an opportunity for personal and professional development but they can get stuffed. In my mind, it is acceptable to live to cause havoc another day.

However, if you are committed to continuing to scheme and you believe that a change of environment may be the catalyst you need, you could consider physically moving your house elsewhere.

It is entirely possible to move structures whole. Were we not under a nationwide lockdown, getting your house from Dulwich to Wales would be a perfectly reasonable prospect. Structures moved whole include the 11m-high statue of Ramesses II to a different site in Cairo in 2006 and the original home of Alexander Hamilton to a more spacious part of New York City in 2008; even houses weighing tens of thousands of tonnes have been moved, although usually only by limited distances of a few metres.

If a house is deemed structurally fit to be moved as a whole, the movers begin by digging down around the foundations of the home and cutting openings in their walls in which to insert a temporary framework of steel beams, which support the load of the house during the move. A system of hydraulic jacks is placed under the steel beams to raise the house from the ground in increments, keeping it level throughout. The house and jacks are given support during the lift with wooden cribbing stacked in piles beneath it. The house is then pushed carefully onto the back of a flatbed truck for the journey. It is estimated that getting a house moving takes a force of around 1 to 2 per cent the weight of the structure.

The entire process is said to be comfortable from inside the house, with stories of moves being completed while open containers of drinks are left unspilled and cats remain asleep. A smooth journey requires careful planning and constant attention throughout to prevent accidents; during a medium or long-distance move, a team of people travel alongside the house to move postboxes, cut down branches, and raise power lines. Once the house reaches its destination, the movers pour a new foundation before lowering it on the hydraulic jacking system, and finally relinking it to utilities suppliers.

This may be a tried-and-tested process with many companies offering their services, but it is more of a challenge while you and everybody else adheres to social-distancing guidelines.

Even if you were able to steal a hydraulic jacking system and mount your house on the back of a self-driving flatbed truck, the process of transporting the house would be risky and time-consuming – and impossible to execute without leaving your house. Just getting as far as the M25 would require you to stop every few metres to cut down power lines, phone boxes, and other obstacles (bulldozing them out of the way and removing the rubble would take even longer). You wouldn’t be able to complete the journey in a single night, and you would certainly end up breaching the lockdown conditions you have committed to following.

Living in a semi, you may also have some explaining to do to the neighbours living on the other side of the building.

I suggest that you either steal a caravan and drive it to an atmospheric quarry or misty moor alone at night, or purchase a VR headset and load up a simulation of something suitably morbid to keep you inspired. Stay connected with your friends and peers – inspiration may strike you – and look after yourself during this difficult time.

The Evil Engineer

PS: Although I do not advise moving your house during this lockdown, you may do well not to cast aside all this information on house moving. Perhaps when things return to some normality, you could expand your portfolio of kidnapping services to include kidnapping entire buildings: laboratories, hospitals, parliaments. There is a real gap in the villainy market for that, waiting to be exploited.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles