Move It or Lose It: Home Moving May Be The Environmental Choice For Preservation

home moving

Moving a house today is largely the same process, albeit more precise and without the horses.

It’s been estimated that two acres of forest are cut down for each 1,200 square feet of house built. It’s also estimated that for every 2,200 pounds of cement produced, 1,980 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Cement production accounts for approximately 10 percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and over 15 percent of landfill space.  And trust me, you don’t want to know the quantity of pollutants cement kilns (factories) throw into the air.

Sure, some building materials are recycled today, but nowhere near all that can be.

On the flipside, booming development in Dallas equates to a lot of demolition of sometimes interesting structures worth preserving.  Some are architectural wonders but many are lower-density structures someone wants to McMansion, or more likely, McApartment.  Many of these smaller structures would be at home elsewhere.

home moving

Not just wood — the 742-ton Indiana Oxygen Building being moved in Indianapolis.

Enter Home Moving

Perhaps you’ve been subjected to Fort Worth-based DIY/HGTV un-reality show Texas Flip and Move. If not, it’s essentially teams of yokels who buy derelict homes at auction that must be moved to a new location before being gussied up and flipped. The team who makes the most money wins.

While that show is not my cuppa, the National Association of Structural Movers estimate that over 10,000 homes are moved from one lot to another each year.  In the process, interesting and often historic buildings are saved from the wrecking ball and the landfill.  The newly moved building gets a second chance to be useful and the materials that would have been needed to build from scratch are no longer cut down or dug up.  Call it big-ticket recycling.

While most buildings we see being trucked down the street are wood frame homes, masonry and concrete structures can be moved. Ditto for those sitting on a concrete slab. Just last year, a 1,600 ton historic stone home measuring 58’ by 95’ was moved … that’s 3.2 million pounds.

Lucy tries to make dinner in moving trailer in ‘The Long, Long Trailer.’ (Source: MGM)

And before you think that house moving is a scene from The Long, Long Trailer with everything flying about during the move, don’t.  The structure is moved slowly and carefully balanced on an army of hydraulic lifts. Moving companies say you can leave everything in place and nothing will be damaged.  At worst, if something is expensive they may advise laying it on the floor.

There’s one big thing to consider when rolling a house down the road. The saying, the “sky is the limit” is actually true.  Structures can be moved so long as there’s a clear path. Utility lines, trees, other buildings and traffic control are all considerations before you even get started.

But the rewards can be great.  Several sources peg moving prices starting at $15-ish per square foot for the actual move. Before you get starry-eyed, there are tons of variables, but it’s possible that moving a structure and resituating it may be cheaper than building from scratch.

As I ponder the fate of the area surrounding my home within PD-15, there is one architecturally interesting building that has already signed-up for the wrecking ball.

One section of the Diplomat complex

The Diplomat

Here’s my pitch.  Would you love to own a genuine midcentury modern home?  Would you love to own a midcentury modern apartment building?  Do you have a bunch of midcentury modern fan friends who would love the opportunity to own their own fab and funky condos?

Do any of these dreams include NOT being behind the Pink Wall?  Perhaps in southern Dallas?  West Love?  West Oak Lawn?

Street frontage of Diplomat complex

When the time is right, ask the Diplomat and ultimately their developer.  They may appreciate not sending their building to the landfill. And you will need plenty of time to plan.

The Diplomat has 14 units of about 1,600 square feet each.  The small complex could easily be broken up into four (or more) sections for transporting to a new location. The complex sits on approximately one acre.

If no one wants the whole complex, an adventurous soul could snap up one of the sections containing four units and plop it on a double 50-foot city lot.  If 1,600 square feet is too small, each section of four units could be reconfigured into two 3,200 square foot units. And they’d be one-up, one-down flats, not townhouses! A creative soul could also slice off the front façade and completely rebuild the back in a different configuration.

I think west Oak Lawn or West Love Field are great locations.  In west Oak Lawn, there are several single lots for sale that won’t attract huge developers unless they can be assembled into something much larger. Being city lots, there are utilities already on-site. If I could get enough side-by-side lots, I’d take the front two building sections and have some very cool curb appeal that couldn’t easily be replicated.  Another bonus is that this area is relatively close to the Pink Wall. Distance matters when you’re moving a building — you can’t just jump on the tollway.

Going further afield, Southern Dallas has plenty of empty space where the Diplomat would be a cool addition to the landscape.

Either way, it’s possible that at the end of the day, in addition to saving a cool midcentury building, you could be saving yourself money.  It’s highly likely that moving all or part of the Diplomat would be cheaper than starting from scratch.  And the coolness factor, don’t forget that. You’d be able to dine out for a year on the story.

For more information on moving a house, check out the International Association of Structural Movers and its Texas branch.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

3 Comment

  • mm

    Jon, we moved the red brick ’50’s era ranch house off our lot when we built our home. It was nothing special architecturally, a 3/2 and the master bath sink emptied into a tall wastebasket they just dumped outside when full rather than call a plumber.

    But I was committed to giving someone shelter with that house.

    Here’s how it ended: the House Mover, who paid me $5000 for the house, bounced the check, which the bank then charged a fee on. He took three extra months to move the house (“my truck is in the shop”) which delayed our homebuilding start to the tune of three to four extra months of carry. Then when he moved the house, he wanted to chop down a tree in front, which still bears the scar from the old house, because it was difficult to negotiate. Thank God I was there, watching, into the wee hours of the night (nothing unusual for me) and wrapped a bed sheet over that pesky tree limb.

    Next house I build, I would rather donate materials than save the house.