Burned California neighborhoods consider production-scale home rebuilding
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
As people begin to recover from entire neighborhoods destroyed by recent California wildfires — approximately 14,700 homes — innovative home-rebuilding approaches may aid Sonoma County.
The past 14 years have seen California recover from seven of the state's eight most destructive fires, including the Cedar (San Diego), Valley (Lake County), and Witch (San Diego) fires. One major option is for homeowners to pool resources together in rebuilding efforts, also known as production-scale rebuilding, or mass-building.
California state law requires insurance companies to provide two years of rent and living expenses to affected homeowners, so the optimal goal is to complete rebuilding within this time frame so people are not making rent and mortgage payments at the same time.
Government and insurance company cooperation, skilled labor availability and homeowner ingenuity are all important factors for aiding a speedy rebuilding process. Considering that over 60 percent of homeowners are underinsured by 20 percent, ingenuity may be in especially high demand.
A discrepancy between insurance payouts and rebuilding costs is anticipated in a climate where there's an estimated $3.3 billion worth of damage. This recent estimate has many people baffled as to how costs of recovery/rebuilding efforts will occur.
Combine these factors with the threat of anticipated labor and materials shortages, and we can see why many are considering production-scale building or mass-building as a solution to the rebuilding challenges ahead.
What exactly is production-scale building? A recent CNBC article explains the approach: "Backers of the approach say pooling together resources could allow for strength in numbers and increase overall efficiencies in the use of skilled crews, site supervisors, equipment as well as the purchase of construction materials."
For example, a single contractor can be hired by multiple households with the same rebuilding needs. This was the approach taken by 80 families in the aftermath of the 2003 Cedar fire that burned down the affluent Scripps Ranch development in San Diego.
In Sonoma County, there is talk of using production-scale modeling in Santa Rosa's middle class Coffey Park neighborhood. Obviously, some more affluent homeowners will not appreciate production-style rebuilding because they may favor more custom-style features.
In addition to limiting the ability to customize features in favor of expediency, there's another complication when considering this approach. If rebuilding is a group effort, and resources are pooled together, this requires time and organization, as people plan the rebuilding of whole neighborhoods together.
Unfortunately, given people's desire to get back into their homes quickly, the idea of setting aside time to pool resources, hire contractors and envision large-scale plans and shared spaces might be overwhelming. We will see soon enough if time pressures have homeowners choosing individual rebuilding or a more collective production-scale approach.
Another quick way to rebuild is to use the homes' original plans, making only slight alterations. However, there are two problems here. You may really want to change key features on your home during this rebuilding opportunity, and redesigning plans will take more time. Also, your quickly-rebuilt home could be standing almost alone in a neighborhood where there's still construction all around it for years to come.
One thing is certain. Contractors, builders, laborers, public officials, insurance companies and homeowners all have their work cut out for them as California begins the recovery and rebuilding process from this historic round of damaging fires.
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