Our Net-Zero Home in Long Beach, California

Living the Change We Want to See in the World

  • Goodbye Old House

    Before we removed contigencies, during escrow, for purchasing the Cristensen house, we contacted several demolition and deconstruction companies to get rough estimates for removing the existing house, pool, and trees. We wanted to understand if we were going to eat up too much of our budget just removing the house. The rough estimates, while generally higher than we expected, were tolerable from a financial perspective.

    Unfortunately, the condition of the house was very bad and it had significant amounts of hazardous waste (lead and asbestos). Very little material was available for reuse which meant the deconstruction cost estimate was much higher than demolition cost estimates. We wanted to deconstruct the house to really minimize the amount of material that went to landfill, but given cost premium to deconstruct, we decided to demolish. Also, the City of Long Beach has some pretty strict requirements for routing demolition waste to appropriate recycling and landfill areas. We rationalized that demolition was not a significantly worse environmental option in this situation.

    After a somewhat lengthy process getting all of the appropriate permits, posting a sizeable bond (to ensure that we transported the waste to the appropriate recycling facility and landfill area), and removing the hazardous waste, we demolished the house about a year after buying it. We were able to divert a very small number of items to reuse.

    Looking from our current home's kitchen window, we now have a relatively clean slate for building our green, dream home.

  • Who Knew?

    We bought the house next door to where we live. The original owners of that house Ed and Virginia Christensen, were both alive, active, and retired when we bought our current house at the end of 1993. As related to us by Virginia, she and Ed built the house before World War II and raised their family of three children there. They expanded the house to its last configuration with the help of a local oil company. Their house was also one of the first houses in our heighborhood.

    Ed preceded Virginia in death. After Virginia passed away we did not have any contact with the people that moved into the house. We found out after we purchased the house, that the parents of a single mother bought the house for their daughter and granddaughter and they were the last residents of the house that the Christensen's built. What we didn't know was the true condition of the house.

    The listing for the house read:

    LOCATION! FIXER Worth looking at! Nestled between Marine Stadium and the Colorado Lagoon in Prime Alamitos Heights! Lovely, quiet, tree-lined street. Surrounded by million dollar properties! Construction Loan Easy & Available! Sold "As Is". Private Showing with easy Appointment! Come Dream the Possibilities! California Distinguished Schools & all freeway access.

    The key phrase was, "Construction Loan Easy & Available!"

    We somewhat unwhittingly bought a complete tear-down. The roughly 75 year-old house was literally falling down. This met our needs very well but we were surprised that the house was in such poor condition.

    Also, the lot has a radically different grade than our current lot despite being next door to us. Retaining walls on the north and east boundaries of the property are in poor condition and concerned some of the deconstruction and demolition contractors who we contacted for bids to remove the existing house. Adding to the complexity of the project was the 10-foot deep in-ground swimming pool that we needed to remove.

    So began our year-long journey of removing the house.

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