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More move to modular construction to mitigate costs, but it’s not the solution for every project.

In an effort to shorten construction timelines to cut down on costs and find creative ways around the shortage of skilled labor, multifamily developers have embraced the possibilities of modular construction.

But as with any new technology, there are still a lot of pitfalls and issues to work out before it becomes a solution for everyone — and it is not a solution for every project.

The move to modular is being driven by a combination of desperation and fear of the future, Panoramic Interests owner Patrick Kennedy said last week at Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference NorCal in San Francisco.

“Conventional methods seem untenable in many circumstances,” he said.

Ultimately, construction costs will just get higher and more developers across markets will look at modular to address costs and the labor shortage.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow SF

 

 

 

Is Silicon Valley going to change the way we build CRE?

From the end of World War II in the mid-1940s until just a few years ago, there was a surge in productivity throughout the United States economy, giving rise to what has often been called the “productivity miracle.”

Throughout this period, nearly every industry in the US — from retail to manufacturing to agriculture — became not only less expensive, but also much more mechanized and faster, leading to increased efficiency.

One industry, however, failed to come on board with this trend – construction. In fact, productivity in construction has not only not increased, but it is also actually lower today than it was in the late 1960’s.

In other words, the way that most commercial real estate buildings are built hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years or so. The process goes by the name “design – bid – build” – but it isn’t nearly as simple or straightforward as it sounds. First, the developer or owner needs to hire an architect, who drafts a rough design. In order to do this, he or she must bring in various outside consultants, such as structural engineers and landscape architects. Next, the owner puts the design out for bids from various general contractors and then hires one (usually the least expensive bid). From there, the general contractor subcontracts the work out, with the architect and the general contractor working together closely to make sure the project is completed as close as possible to budget and on schedule.

If the system sounds complicated, well, that’s because it is. Having so many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, often leads to misunderstandings, placing blame on others, or worse. The combination of volatile prices for materials and an observed shortage of skilled labor has created an industry that is primed for disruption.

 

 

Read more on NAI Global

 

 

 

How will S.F.’s tallest buildings fare in the next big earthquake? Report expresses concerns

San Francisco’s tall buildings may be at risk of damage during the next big earthquake, a study released by research nonprofit Applied Technology Council (ATC) last week warns.

The 36-page report outlines vulnerability concerns over outdated building standards and provides a strategy for proactive safety checks.

The study’s release comes just days after cracks were found in two steel beams of San Francisco’s newly minted $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center, and as Millennium Tower next door continues to sink and tilt. Last year, the late Mayor Ed Lee commissioned the report, which was prepared by a group of engineers.

The report probed the city’s 156 tallest buildings — either constructed or permitted for construction — that are at least 240 feet high, primarily located in San Francisco’s Financial District. About 60 percent of these buildings house business and office space, while the rest are zoned residential.

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Business fees to fund housing will be studied in San Jose

The concern, even for some council members who voted for the study, is that despite its housing shortage, San Jose still has many more residents than jobs, which is the opposite of the situation in many surrounding cities.

The imposition of commercial linkage fees to fund below market-rate housing is still alive in San Jose after Tuesday’s 9-2 City Council vote to add a discussion of them to next week’s agenda.

The vote came on an item of how the city should respond to a Santa Clara civil jury report issued in June that included among its findings that the fees are overdue and would increase housing.

Five council members, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, wrote memos changing the staff-authored response of disagreement with the finding to say the city would consider a study to confirm the causal relationship between job creation and an increased need for housing and a second study of the feasibility of enacting fees.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

Mayor wants to lure modular housing factory to SF to provide both homes, jobs

As San Francisco officials continue to scout locations for a factory that can churn out modular housing units, Mayor London Breed is lining up the city to be the first customer.

Breed is expected to announce Monday that the city is prepared to spend $100 million on hundreds of modular apartments that would grow the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Who will run the modular housing factory won’t be known for some time, though the leading plan is to seek a private operator on city-owned or city-leased property. And even after a site is selected, it will take years to get a factory up and running.

But Breed and other officials hope the early — and sizable — promise to buy will entice interested operators to set up shop in San Francisco.

Read more on SF Chronicle

Sinking Millennium Tower’s window cracks, SF seeks answers about safety

The sinking Millennium Tower in San Francisco has another problem.

A cracked window on the 36th floor that’s prompted San Francisco officials to issue a citation requiring building engineers to report on the condition of the glass panel.

The window cracked early Sunday morning.

“At this time, we do not know what caused this fracture, though it appears to be limited to this one specific unit,” Bill Strawn, spokesman for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, said in a statement.

The 58-story residential tower has sunk more than 17 inches since it opened in 2009.

 

 

Full article on SFGate

 

 

 

 

Oakland housing developers turn to new ways of building to reduce costs

Rising construction costs are pushing Oakland developers to rethink traditional construction methods to make sure much-needed housing continues to get built.

“It is an issue right now that we are all facing increased construction costs,” UrbanCore Development CEO Michael Johnson said during Bisnow’s recent Oakland Construction & Development Update event. “What will happen is some projects will not move forward as a result of that.”

Double-digit increases in the cost of new construction projects are not driven solely by increases in material costs, but also by higher profit margins and greater labor costs as contractors struggle to find a qualified workforce, he said.

Several developers have turned toward using modular units, designing more efficient floor plans and creating new building technologies.

OWow is developing a type of unit that can adjust the number of bedrooms with a push of a button. Mechanized, acoustically rated walls would raise and lower to create up to four bedrooms, oWow founder Danny Haber said. His company has been building macro-units in Oakland that use efficient design to cut down on construction costs.

Other developers have been pursuing modular construction. UrbanCore Development decided to go modular on its Coliseum Connections project about five years ago, Johnson said. Conventional construction was more expensive, and an analysis estimated about a 10% cost savings on a $40M construction budget, he said.

The modular units are expected to be fully in place by Friday and the 110-unit mixed-income housing project is expected to be completed in January.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

 

Oakland’s growing pains could stifle future development

Dozens of cranes dot Oakland’s skyline and thousands of new housing units are in the works, making the current cycle one of the most robust in Oakland’s history.

As more people and businesses turn toward Oakland as a cheaper area to live and work, Oakland has struggled to keep up with both office and housing demand. Downtown Oakland is one of the tightest office markets in the country and multifamily rents have risen 51% since the start of the cycle.

Developers and designers are looking for ways to build more efficiently to keep rents down, but growing community activism, overworked city planning staff and tightening financing could stall future growth in Oakland.

Panelists discussed these topics as well as the impact of modular units and designing housing to meet residents’ changing needs during Bisnow’s Oakland Construction and Development Update event Thursday.

With 900 housing units delivering this year and 2,400 next year, the city is undergoing rapid change.

“Instead of the city [staff] focusing on department stores and auto dealerships, they’re making Oakland a very vibrant place to live,” Junction Properties owner Charles Long said during the event.

The increased development has spurred an anti-displacement movement and a backlash over a lack of affordable housing, which could shut down the future fulfillment of housing that Oakland has in its pipeline, he said.

Developers need to be more cognizant of working with the city and other stakeholders to better address the anti-displacement backlash, he said.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

Modular units make their debut at Oakland housing project

Modular units are being installed at Coliseum Connections in Oakland.

The $53M project, developed by a JV of UrbanCore and Oakland Economic Development Corp., will create 110 mixed-income units on a 1.3-acre Bay Area Rapid Transit-owned parking lot ground-leased to the JV.

The modular units were built by Guerdon Enterprises out of Boise, Idaho. Completion of the modular unit placement is expected on June 29. The project is expected to be completed in January when occupancy also is expected to begin.

Coliseum Connections is one of a handful of modular projects in the works or being planned in Oakland. Panoramic Interests plans to build over 1,000 units in West Oakland next to BART, and RAD Urban is planning two high-rises from steel modular units.

The project at Snell Street and 71st Avenue will have 55 market-rate units with rents ranging from $1,900 to $2,400 for households earning 80% to 120% of the area median income; the other 55 units will be affordable with rents from $1,100 to $1,600 for households earning 50% to 60% of the area median income.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

After two projects sank, can San Francisco find developers for decaying waterfront?

The new effort is one of the largest but also potentially costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The Port of San Francisco is seeking ideas for new uses at 13 historic waterfront piers, in one of the largest but also potentially one of the costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The agency wants proposals from both large developers and smaller tenants such as nonprofits, arts groups and retailers to revive the piers, which are now vacant or used for parking or storage.

Some previously renovated piers have been financial successes. Waterfront offices at the Ferry Building and Piers 1 1/2, 3 and 5 have signed tenants for rents over $100 per square foot. Control of the Piers later sold for $103 million in 2016, and the Ferry Building is expected to be sold to Hudson Pacific Properties for around $300 million, according to sources tracking the market.

But two recent redevelopment efforts failed because of the high costs of rehabilitating and seismically protecting piers. A study for the Port found that $74 million to $10 million would be required to bring a single pier up to code. Last year TMG Partners and Premier Structures, Inc. exited an office, event and restaurant space proposal at Pier 38 after the cost to repair the pier was expected to be as high as $122 million.

 

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times