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Design of a Moving Building

Project Success Description

The Monsanto Learning Center is located on the east side of Highway 47 about two miles south of Gothenburg, Nebraska. Monsanto is conducting drought-tolerant corn-hybrid research at the site. Moisture is precisely measured and applied to plants located in the test plots. A rain-out shelter was constructed over test plots and prevents unwanted rainfall from influencing corn-hybrid research.

The rainout shelter is a metal building, measures 80 feet wide by 160 feet long, and travels 360 feet. REDI Engineering, Inc. designed the foundation and rail system for this building. The design of the foundation and rail system considered wind uplift, horizontal thrust, and gravitational forces. The maximum horizontal thrust for a rigid frame reaches about nine tons, and wind uplift reaches 10 tons. The building behaves like large parachute when opened, so anchoring the building to the foundation and developing a load path to transfer forces from the building through the foundation to the soil was an essential design objective. Conventional rails like the type used in modern railroads were not used, because the torsional stiffness of locomotive rails is too low for this application. A rail system was designed and fabricated for this specific application. A chain-and-sprocket drive system located on each side of the building moves the building. The drive system is synchronized to prevent racking of the building. Key engineering challenges for this project included:

  • Synchronizing movement of the drive system;
  • Engineering and manufacturing the rails;
  • Remote control of the building;
  • Stopping and anchoring the building; and
  • Designing a load path to resist wind uplift.
John Thomazin MSME, P.E.

John Thomazin MSME, P.E.

Moving-Building Engineer

John designed the foundation and rail system for the rainout shelter. John’s engineering experience includes stress analysis, structural analysis, building design, product development, and forensic engineering. He is an entrepreneur, enjoys solving difficult problems, and likes creating economical solutions. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Nebraska.