Framing Reno's housing market

Published: Sep. 6, 2017 at 1:55 AM PDT
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It's no secret trying to find affordable housing in northern Nevada is a challenge. High demand and low supply are driving up prices, and developers who are building are facing a shortage of skilled workers and an increase in material costs. Materials like lumber have also gone up with demand.

"It is the most significant cost inside of the house," Rich Gallagher, CEO for Erickson Companies, said. "Anywhere from 25 to up to 50% of the total cost of the house. In the past 18 months it's up dramatically, and so yet another reason to really want to optimize the amount of material that you're putting into a house."

Optimizing material use is something Erickson Companies specializes in. Traditionally lumber comes in a standard size. The house is cut and framed on site, but that creates a lot of wasted lumber.

"We pioneered complete framing systems," Gallagher said. "Took traditional framing and put a manufacturing spin on it. Through that design element, we are able to produce wall panels and truss units at a very methodical, consistent, high-quality rate."

Gallagher says this method helps reduce the construction time significantly.

"It take three to five weeks to frame a house depending on size," he said. "We can cut a week to two weeks out of that process on site."

Working with developers, the company can mass-produce the trusses and wall panels needed for new homes in a warehouse, then deliver the product to the construction site.

"All the engineering is done ahead of time," Aaron West, CEO of the Nevada Builders Alliance, said. "Everything is cut. There's so much efficiency to be gained by doing it in a manufacturing setting. You're putting it together, and ship it to the site, and literally in a couple days your house is standing."

"It is more affordable than it is going the conventional route where you just drop a bundle of wood, and cut, and saw it on site," Gallagher said. "By the time it gets out to the job site, we've got fully constructed walls that are ready to stand up. It reduces a lot of the waste. So by reducing the waste, it definitely cuts cost."

Reducing the construction cost is just one small piece in the puzzle of how to fix the area's housing crunch.

The company has helped build about 25% of the new homes in northern Nevada over the past 15 years. But they have been based out of Sacramento. Now the company has brought its innovated manufacturing process to northern Nevada.

"What we bring is an alternative approach that mitigates the impacts of the labor shortage and taps into a different labor pool that allows for us to get to the same place, only faster," Gallagher said.

Tuesday, the company celebrated the opening of its northern Nevada manufacturing facility, High Desert Truss and Lumber. Gallagher says he hopes his company can be an example for others.

"What we're hoping to do is lead the charge in showing that Reno is a place that you can make a sizable investment," he said.

That sizable investment includes 75 to 100 new jobs over the next few years.