Santa Rosa wildfire rebuild policies can inform construction regulations long term, architect says
Doug Hilberman came to Santa Rosa from Portland, Oregon, in 2003 as an associate and project architect at Axia Architects and became a principal a year later then president in 2006.
He’s been actively involved in Santa Rosa business, construction and local government organizations such as the American Institute of Architects Redwood Empire chapter, The Construction Coalition, Sonoma County Alliance, Santa Rosa Metro chamber of commerce and city of Santa Rosa’s Design Review Board. The Tubbs Fire that destroyed thousands of homes in and around Santa Rosa in October also claimed Hilberman’s residence.
Hilberman is set to be on a panel of local industry experts at North Bay Business Journal’s Construction Industry Conference in May 31. He talked with the Journal about the actions local government has taken to spur the rebuild, which of these streamlining policies could be beneficial beyond the recovery, and the impact of such actions on current and future development elsewhere in the North Bay.
What are the biggest problems you face in getting projects built?
North Coast Builders Exchange and (American Institute of Architects Redwood Empire chapter) has looked at a number of the constraints. Certainly, it’s labor and materials, but labor is going to be the capacity constraint for the region. In addition to the 5,300 homes that need to be rebuilt there was just over $1 billion in school bonds passed, and the bulk of that work is being performed in 2017 through 2020. We have both commercial and residential markets straining to meet the needs of the region.
On top of that, we have an economy that is in full gear, so we have the private sector wanting to grow and expand their facilities and grow. In many ways, we have the perfect storm in terms of needs in the North Bay in terms of building infrastructure.
Are the projects coming across your firm’s desks mostly residential, school or commercial projects?
Yes. (Laughs) Our firm is diversified in what we do. We see demand coming from all sectors. That includes a number of school projects, a number of private-sector corporate projects, a number of winery projects and some residential.
Are those residential projects in addition to rebuilds?
We’ve been incorporating rebuild clients into our mix at a level we can provide quality and attention, a few at a time. We also have residential clients not directly related to the rebuild. Having personally been affected by the firm myself, we want to provide as much as we can. We’ve been providing free advice to help people get bearings and settle in as they move through the steps of this process to get back into their homes.
How are the construction-related policies from local governments affecting the flow of your projects?
Both the city and the county have to be commended. They have hired firms to look for precedents and best practices, but they have found we are truly breaking ground in a unique situation.
We’re going to look back and be proud on the efforts of our individuals, agencies and organizations. I’ve been impressed with the aggressive steps that have been taken to both clear the runway and at the same time have a basic element of regulatory review. Bringing in the third-party plan-checkers has been good, because their turnaround times have been commendable.