Don't Throw that House Away!

The ultimate green home is a recycled one.

By Matthew Halverson December 13, 2008 Published in the November 2008 issue of Seattle Met

LIKE ANY CONSCIENTIOUS SEATTLEITE, you wrap your arms around environmentalism like it’s an old-growth tree in the Forest of Best Intentions. You dig aluminum cans out of dumpsters, you send company-wide emails bemoaning your coworkers’ excessive printing practices, you even shower every other day just to conserve water. But, oh Champion of All That Is Green and Good, have you ever recycled a house?

Don’t beat yourself up if the answer is no—it’s not really as easy as sorting your plastic bottles into a blue bin. In fact, it involves lifting the house from its foundation, jacking it up and putting it on wheels, attaching the whole contraption to a tractor trailer, and carting it to its new lot. Oh, and you have to take down the occasional power line along the way, and dig a hole and pour a new foundation, and…

It’s a lot of work in the name of eco-domesticity, but given the fact that nearly 465,000 tons of construction and demolition waste generated in King County in 2007 ended up in landfills, it might be worth it. With each house that gets recycled, says Jeff McCord of Nickel Bros. House Moving, “you’re saving about 40 to 60 tons of waste from going into a landfill.”

And the idea may be catching on. The 53-year-old company—which hunts down well-built older homes in danger of being torn down, finds them new owners, and delivers them (“We’re like the adoption agency for houses,” McCord says)—watched its number of house moves double in the Puget Sound region last year and expects it to double again this year.

“There’s definitely a much greater awareness of the concept of house moving as a creative way of keeping things out of the landfills,” McCord says. Not only that, you can typically buy the house for a buck because you’re saving the previous owner as much as $18,000 in demo costs. Talk about building green.