Are you serious?
There’s a COVID Building Boom?
Yes, there is a COVID Building Boom, but not for the typical reasons. How can there be a COVID building boom in today’s miserable economic conditions? The patterns of our lives have shifted, and the demands on our homes have ballooned. On top of it all, building costs across the board have exploded.
We now require a home with one or more offices and classroom functions. With everyone at home 24/7, our once comfortable dwellings now feel crowded and inadequate. Some of the boom causes are:
- Post-COVID pent up demand for new homes
- Families relocating from city to suburbs
- Single-family homes– any available homes need work
- Families, once again, heading for the suburbs
- Working and schooling at home
What is driving the higher costs?
Despite the obviously increased cost conditions, we are experiencing an ongoing and robust surge in demand for home projects of all types. There are concerns about high demand, short supplies, embargoes, and even a very pesky mountain pine beetle, all conspiring to drive up construction costs. The drivers of increased building prices are:
- Labor shortage and a shrinking labor force
- Environmental conditions
- Building materials shortages and long lead times
- And the most significant increase of all– framing lumber
The most significant contributor to costs is the framing representing a considerable share of every building project, about 60%. With today’s inflated demand for carpentry labor and skyrocketing materials, the COVID Building Boom challenges to control these costs are substantial.
Those familiar with lumber futures markets* will tell you that rates have spiked from $345 to over $1670 in the past year. This reflects a direct impact on material costs for the entire lumber package down to the stud, a real-world increase of nearly five times. So the question becomes, “How do we gain control?”
Builders have framed homes in the same way for hundreds of years, resulting in fast and reliable projects—the practice struggles in periods of disruption and change. We need actionable, out-of-the-box alternatives to leverage more cost-effective building systems. Architects are well suited to guide the consideration and selection of appropriate building systems and evaluate options to control these costs.
What Can Be Done About It?
As architects, it’s our job to guide clients toward optimal and best value solutions for their home projects. Consider your COVID Building Boom alternatives for labor and materials in lower demand and greater capacities. There are a few out of the box options to regain control.
- Optimize your design
- Alternate structural systems
- Advanced Framing Technique
- Engineered lumber
- Help your builder help you
Optimize your Design
Work with your architect to consider and evaluate the spaces in your home or proposed design. Are there any rooms that are used less than once per week? Formal living rooms and dining rooms are often among those types of rooms. Can the lesser-used rooms and spaces be incorporated into other more utilized rooms? Sensitively designed open floor plans also offer flexibility while managing noise and distractions.
Do you stock up on provisions or take on new activities to care for and occupy your family during COVID? Do you have adequate storage and accommodations? Coordinated built-in storage can help manage the clutter and make the best use of your space.
Structural Masonry is one such alternative to substitute for lumber and carpenters. In addition, minimizing wood framing as a structural system altogether can tap into underutilized building trades.
However, if traditional wood framing is your only option, consider more efficient alternatives. For example, the “Advanced Framing” technique reduces material and labor by reducing redundant or optimizing oversized framing members.
An additional benefit is higher thermal efficiency. There is more room for insulation with less wood in the wall, providing ongoing savings from heating and cooling your home.
Made from lumber bi-products, engineered lumber is another excellent alternative to “sawn” lumber products. These products provide greater strength, dimensional stability, and sustainability, translating into larger spaces, a lighter environmental footprint, and higher quality construction. Formerly considered a premium material choice, we find that this option is gaining popularity, especially in light of high lumber costs.
Help Your Builder Help You
It has always been wise to develop a well-coordinated plan for constructing your home. Designs that respond to your family’s needs offer flexibility and accommodate growth make the very best use of your investment.
Pressure on costs and fees results in anemic design documents. Specific details and selections are often left to be worked out between homeowners and builders.
The high demand for scarce labor resources highlights the importance of clear and thorough communication. Underdeveloped architectural designs may save money upfront but require others to pick up the slack. General contractors and building trades respond more rapidly and prefer fully documented projects, ensuring that their work is performed uninterrupted and profitably. Make your home an in-demand project.
Holding All of the Cards
Stack the deck in your favor by investing in clearly defined and documented architectural design. You’ll feel more confident that the plan meets your budget and schedule goals. Command a strong negotiating position over builders, throwing high numbers at projects to cover unanswered questions and undefined details, and other COVID Building Boom challenges.
The investment in quality designs pays dividends and ultimately results in a refined home with peace of mind. You can expect accurate budgets and reliable schedule commitments. You will feel confident in your decisions, leaving nothing to question.
In this unique time with so many struggling, giving back is crucial. We support communities in need through low-income and disaster relief programs.
We work with Solid Rock Carpenters (www.SolidRockCapenters.org) in their mission to provide low-cost, durable, and dignified housing for suffering communities. Our partners in the mission include Habitat for Humanity (www.Habitat.org) and Appalachian Service Project (www.ASPHome.org). Together we have innovated methods and systems to engage and optimize volunteer support of all skill levels to build warmer, safer, and drier homes.
Mark Eric Benner – Architects commits to donating the home framing for a deserving family in need with every new home we design for our clients. We extend this support opportunity to our clients with an invitation to match the donation and participate in hands-on framing events to directly connect to this mission.
Best Version Media – Northbrook Living Magazine
Featured in the article “The COVID Building Boom” found in Best Version Media’s Northbrook Living, this new construction single-family home illustrates many of the challenges and options faced by those considering a building or remodeling project during these challenging times. Despite high material costs and a limited supply of labor, there remains strong demand for suburban housing. See how we faced these challenges and what may be done to take back control of your home project.
Click the image below to read the magazine. The reference article is found on pages 18-19.
Mark Eric Benner – Architects – www.MEBArchitect.com
Solid Rock Carpenters – www.SolidRockCarpenters.org
Appalachian Service Project – www.ASPHome.org
Habitat for Humanity – www.Habitat.org
Case Study – 2118 Walters New Construction
Do you want to learn more about how these principles are applied in practice and explore this new home available for purchase in Northbrook? Please visit www.2118Walters.com.
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