Rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral will be challenging

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Officials are still investigating the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and French President Emmanuel Macron has announced they will rebuild the more than 800-year-old structure.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Photo Date: September 3, 2014

Heather Kirkvold, an assistant professor of civil engineering at James Madison University, believes they will be able to rebuild it, but she says it will be difficult.

"You have to look at the many different parts of the existing structure, what's remaining, as well as the previous structure," Kirkvold said. "What records exist for the materials that were used, or even photos, to properly reconstruct it."

Kirkvold said finding the exact wood that was used originally is going to be hard.The beams in the cathedral were said to be made out of 13,000 oak trees during the 13th century.

She also said another factor is finding new material that will mend with the old, without losing strength.

"The compatibility of an older concrete that's not shrinking anymore," Kirkvold said, "not shrinking very much with a newly casted material, who's going to shrink a lot, it is very structurally, mechanically, noncompatible."

As of Tuesday night, more $790 million has been raised to rebuild the cathedral.