Expert Interview Series: Allison Paul of California Homebuilding Foundation on the State of the Golden State’s Construction Industry

Construction industry

Allison directs the operations of CHF’s CIRB (Construction Industry Research Board) Report and facilitates all media and public relations for both CIRB and the foundation. We recently spoke with Allison to get a clearer picture of the construction industry right now in California.

What precisely does CIRB do?

CIRB is the industry’s most accurate and reliable source for residential and commercial construction permit statistics. Our two-person research team works on a monthly basis to request building reports from over 530 California jurisdictions, interpret each issued building permit record, and input the information into our database to generate custom and subscription data reports. CIRB houses current and historical permit statistics dating back to 1954 and is regularly utilized by state agencies, universities, and various private sector organizations.

As the co-chair of the California Building Industry Association’s Professional Women in Building Council, could you tell us about the areas of the industry where women are well-represented? Are there areas that are in need of more women?

The majority of women in the building industry are employed in the areas of marketing, advertising, real estate, design, communications, and administration. However, women are greatly underrepresented in the executive levels of management and in the more hands-on professions of homebuilding and construction, such as trades, contracting, and architecture. In fact, women only comprise approximately 12% of the nation’s total construction workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The goal of CBIA PWB is to give all women (and men) in our industry a voice and the opportunities to build connections, further their careers and education, and become more involved in legislative activities impacting the building industry.

Give us your opinion of the building permitting process in California. Does it take a long time, or has it become more streamlined than in the past?

The permit process varies by municipality. Some city and county building departments have very efficient permit application procedures, while others are more cumbersome and time-consuming. The lack of consistency between the departments in our state not only affects the reporting of permit activity, but also the day-to-day operations of building contractors – and, by extension, their clients as well. Although some jurisdictions utilize online permitting systems and software developed by private companies, there has yet to be a single, standardized permit reporting system implemented statewide.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing right now regarding the state’s residential building permits? 

In 2016, for the first time in five years, we saw multifamily home production decrease from the previous year, while single-family units continued to increase. Multifamily dwellings statewide were expected to remain on an upward trend following the Great Recession, but it appears that single-family homes were in higher demand this past year. According to CIRB’s New Development in California 2017 Report, due to high living costs associated with California’s coastal regions, we should see an increase in new home production in Central California and an influx of residents making their way to regions such as Fresno and Tulare Counties over the next five to ten years.

What classification of non-residential building permits seems to be seeing the most growth right now? 

With all of the Central California housing developments currently in the planning stages or close to breaking ground, we should also see an increase in commercial buildings constructed in these same areas to accommodate employment. Industrial factories and warehouses, office buildings, storage facilities, hospitals and assisted living facilities, parking garages, and hotels are some of the structures that will experience the most growth in the coming years.

What will be some of the major challenges facing builders in California over the next several years?

Code changes and regulatory measures at the state level could have an impact on building costs and duration of the construction process. California weather will always be a factor in building, as flood and heavy rain seasons delay building schedules and drought cycles deprive builders of water to use on site. Most importantly, the lack of an incoming construction workforce will be highly detrimental to our industry. More professionals will retire in the next few years and leave a noticeable labor void unless high schools begin to adopt construction trades programs (like the Building Industry Technology Academy or BITA) and train the next-generation workforce.

Interested in joining the growing California residential construction industry? Find out how becoming a home inspector can kickstart your career.

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