In early April, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $500+ million spending plan to help prevent damage from wildfires in California. Many aspects of the plan relate to building new construction and retrofitting existing buildings to minimize wildfire spread. Some experts believe it is necessary, while others worry that it could negatively affect the construction industry. Here are a few things you should know, so you can see how the plan may affect your contracting business.
Fire-Resistant Building Materials
One of the chief components of the new plan, as it relates to the construction industry, is the use of fire-resistant building materials. This change may seem fairly obvious, as something that is less likely to catch fire will also be less likely to spread it. However, fire-resistant building materials also change building practices and the costs involved with the project, according to industry experts. If your contracting business is obligated to use steel or concrete instead of lumber for building, your estimates will change. In many cases, they could go up significantly. On the other hand, many of these practices are already in use in certain parts of the state. For example, many regions require new construction to include fire-resistant features like fiber cement siding or fire suppression sprinkler systems
Fire Safety Standards for Development
Limits on development may create complications for the construction industry as a whole. The governor’s plan includes requirements on developments at the edge of cities and suburbs. These are the areas that are closest to wildlife and vegetation, and more likely to be first burned during a wildfire. The plan indicates that these developments must include a fire break, which creates a specific distance that builders must maintain between a development and surrounding vegetation. Opponents of the plan say that these regions are already the heaviest focus for development in California at present. With these limitations, it may be harder to get approval for new construction, which is desperately needed in the state. Of course, these limits would be much less likely to affect construction in urban areas.
Home Hardening Retrofits
Setting rules for new construction is an effective way for the state to minimize the risk of wildfire damage, but it is not sufficient. There are millions of homes in the state that may not have the protections necessary to minimize a wildfire. For example, older homes often use inflammable materials as part of construction. Roofing or siding made out of wood has accounted for significant damage from California wildfires in the last 20 years. Newsom‘s plan includes funding to promote what experts call “home hardening” retrofits. Home hardening is a process wherein a professional inspects a home and identifies several upgrades that could decrease the likelihood of burning, such as:
- Installing fire-resistant roofing and siding
- Upgrading to multi-paned windows or tempered glass
- Installing fire rated doors
- Building decks with fire-resistant materials and minimizing fire-prone décor
A complete retrofit may not necessarily set an existing home on the same level as new construction, but it could make a big difference. Contracting businesses that focus on safety retrofits may be able to find a steady source of projects as part of the plan.
How Your Contracting Business Can Plan for Change
Changing the way that an industry works in order to prevent environmental disasters is usually going to spark controversy. And regardless of the side you choose, your contracting business is likely to be affected by it. It’s worth considering whether you might change course or look for opportunities that come as a result. In either case, you may want to:
- Update your experience working with fire-resistant building materials
- Research common retrofits that you might be able to offer during renovations
- Stay current on the latest building guidelines, particularly as they relate to your region
That way, you can see where the industry is headed and ensure that your business is ready to meet it.
Maintaining a contracting business in an area that’s prone to wildfires takes creativity and innovation. For more information about how you can take advantage of the latest knowledge available in the construction industry, contact CSLS today!