Santa Rosa housing project embraces modular construction
Kitchens and bathrooms often are among the last parts of a new home to be completed. But at The Residences at Taylor Mountain project in southeast Santa Rosa, they have started arriving before the first foundations are ready for them.
An often-touted benefit of modular construction is acceleration of a project timeline by as much as double, as work on site and in the factory can happen simultaneously. But in the case of this 93-townhome project, the production plant got ahead of the on-site work.
“The challenge had with fires is it has stressed the factories and the local labor market pool,” said Will Oswald, CEO of Kawana Meadows Development LLC, the Kentfield-based developer of the townhomes and a future phase with 67 single-family homes, called Taylor Mountain Estates. “‘Half the time’ is now down to half the half the time, because there is so much work out there.”
Santa Rosa-based HybridCore Homes has delivered over a dozen of its “wet cores” — modules with ample plumbing such as bathrooms and kitchens — to the townhome project site at 2880 Franz Kafka Ave. from factories in the Central Valley. But with thousands of homes destroyed in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties in October and hundreds more destroyed in wildfires in Southern and Northern California in the months since, such factories are getting to be as busy as local subcontractors.
“We get production that’s good and consistent out of the factory, but the problem is if you’re not in their schedule, there are 100 projects ahead of you,” Oswald said. “Two years ago, it was not hard to do, but now the timelines are getting longer.”
HybridCore alone has about 20 postfire rebuilds underway in Santa Rosa’s devastated Coffey Park neighborhood and the Larkfield community just to the north, according to Matt Hernandez, director of operations. The company contracts with factories in Sacramento, Woodland and Corona operated by Clayton Homes, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Those plants operate six day a week, rain or shine.
As the HybridCore modules arrive for the Taylor Mountain project, Sonoma County firms Argonaut Constructors and Staggs Construction are preparing sites, infrastructure and slab foundations for the first 10 of what eventually will be 27 buildings with one-, two- or three-bedroom units.
The project general contractor, A-One Construction from the Peninsula, will be framing — “stick-building,” in industry parlance — the first floor of the units then building the hallways, stairs and other areas around the modules after they are hoisted into the place on the second and third stories.
A spinoff of Farrell Faber and Associates architecture firm in Santa Rosa, HybridCore has manufacturing (HybridCore Homes) and on-site construction (HybridCore Build) divisions.
The goal is to start being able start stacking the modules vertically in the units in mid-September to stay on track for the first units to be available for occupancy early next year, Oswald said.
Prices for the townhomes are anticipated to start in the low $400,000 range for the 623-square-foot one-bedroom unit called The Oak, according to Tara Polley, a Sotheby’s International Wine Country Properties agent marketing the project. The largest units, called The Mountain, will have three bedrooms and 1,444 square feet.
Kawana Meadows is going with conventional framing rather than modules on the first floor of The Residences at Taylor Mountain, because site drainage calls for the townhome buildings to be built on slab-on-grade foundations, Oswald said.