Habitat for Humanity secured its first volunteer back in 1977, and since then has amassed a group of some two million people per year who pitch in to help the non-profit build affordable homes for people in need.
When a rash of wildfires in 2017 took more than 5,000 homes in Sonoma County, California, the local chapter of Habitat looked for a way to kick things into high gear and now, according to Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat, Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County is ready to announce some big plans.
In spring of 2019, the group will open a zero-waste factory where it will be able to produce key pre-fab components of its homes, including walls and floors.
To put it into perspective just how much efficiency this can add: Habitat Sonoma says the walls and floors of each home could be produced in as little as two days and once on-site, the full home construction would take around two weeks. The group estimates it will be able to build 70 homes per year using this new method. To compare to past efforts, the Press Democrat says the group has built around 3 dozen homes since it was established nearly 35 years ago.
CEO Mike Johnson says the factory is being modeled after a similar set up in Edmonton, Canada and, while it will cost about a half million dollars annually to operate, will use a combination of paid and volunteer labor as well as rely on contracts with other developers to help defray its costs. This would propel the efforts towards self-sustaining operation within just a couple of years, says Johnson.
Another local benefit to the factory relates to a partnership that Habitat Sonoma has established with the Santa Rosa Junior College. If funding is approved, the team should be able to train up to 500 students per year in building and construction methods, easing a local worker shortage and enabling trainees to gain valuable experience on-site with Habitat – a win-win for both agencies but, most of all, for the families who will gain the valuable gift of a fresh start in a new home.