Feature

Moving house (literally)

G Magazine

We do it with our newspapers, bottles and cans – why not with our houses as well? Explore the benefits of recycling the family home.

Springvale

Built 100 years ago, this house was still strong enough to withstand a move in one piece on the back of a truck 200m further down the ridge to take advantage of the spectacular view at Possum Creek in northern NSW.

Credit: Ian and Mary Hay

Springvale 2

Built 100 years ago, this house was still strong enough to withstand a move in one piece on the back of a truck 200m further down the ridge to take advantage of the spectacular view at Possum Creek in northern NSW.

Credit: Ian and Mary Hay

Springvale 3

Built 100 years ago, this house was still strong enough to withstand a move in one piece on the back of a truck 200m further down the ridge to take advantage of the spectacular view at Possum Creek in northern NSW.

Credit: Ian and Mary Hay

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Here's a whole new spin on the idea of 'moving house': jacking up the building, putting it on the back of a truck and relocating it. The environmental benefits of this recycling writ large are especially evident when it comes to houses slated for demolition. Often the building is still perfectly liveable, but the owners want to use the site differently, putting up a block of flats instead of a single dwelling, for example. In such a case, all the materials and energy invested in the building would otherwise be wasted.

In particular, the energy invested in our existing buildings is not to be underestimated. "The energy embodied in existing building stock is equivalent to 10 years of the total energy consumption of the entire nation," says the CSIRO's Selwyn Tucker, also president of the National Committee on Rationalised Building. "Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building," he explains.

"The reuse of building materials commonly saves about 95 per cent of the embodied energy which would otherwise be wasted."

As well as avoiding new energy and resource inputs and reducing demolition impacts, removing and relocating a building is a comparatively cheap and fast way to create a new family home. It also affords the opportunity to make precise adjustments in a house's orientation to make the most of sustainable passive heating and cooling, or for other reasons.

NSW couple Ian and Mary Hay arranged for their home to be picked up and shifted just 200 m on a moving truck so that it sat further back from the road in a spot with a magnificent view. They were so happy with the results that they decided to repeat the process when they moved to another property. This time, though, they purchased a recycled Queenslander. "We loved the idea of being able to recycle an old Queenslander-style home, rather than building something from scratch," says Ian.

"Buying a recycled home is so much more energy efficient than building new, since the house structure and building materials can be re-used rather than replaced. This also means less energy is used in the process. Plus it's pretty exciting to see it all take place."

Move it!

So how is an entire home moved across the countryside? Pretty dramatically! The easiest houses to move are the kind sitting on support stumps. Indeed, it's no coincidence that house relocations are especially popular in Queensland and northern New South Wales, where homes built on stilts and/or made from light timber construction predominate. There are, however, house removal companies all over the country (one of which is currently moving houses from urban Melbourne), and even brick veneers can be moved.

Narrow houses are often lifted as a whole onto the back of a huge truck, as both of the Hays' houses were, while most others are first sliced in half, floor to ceiling, and reassembled on arrival.

Houses are generally moved at night when traffic conditions are quietest. It can be quite a sight to see a house being inched along a suburban street, just sneaking under overhead wires, with someone perched on the roof to deflect them if necessary.

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