Fort Myers Beach is in the first inning of a years-long rebuild. To help everyone work through the issues of that rebuild, we recently launched a new Friday series called 5 Questions With a Builder. In week two our guest builder is Mark Raudenbush from Idyll Construction
BTRN: Why do you (or maybe you don’t) believe rebuilding homes is taking longer than expected?
Mark Raudenbush: This may be a controversial answer, but I don’t think rebuilding is taking longer than it should. A home is a big investment and a permanent fixture that is going to survive in our neighborhoods for many decades to come. Designing and constructing a new home should be a carefully considered process. Your home should embrace and reflect your family and the community. The pre-construction planning cycle is important to ensure you are going to be living in a home the way you want to live. Since Ian, Idyll Construction has embraced the speed and efficiency of Modular Construction. The power of the modular process is that it dramatically shortens the actual construction cycle. Depending on the complexity of the home, design and permitting time line might not be much different. However, the total delivery time is much less.
BTRN: What has your experience been with permitting and how can the town improve it for builders and homeowners?
Mark Raudenbush: There is no doubt that the town’s building department has been overwhelmed with new permit requests. The town’s staff, like many island residents, have also been displaced. They deserve our patience and respect, and they are doing their best under the circumstances. Idyll Construction is using additional resources to assist in expedite the rebuilding process. This includes private provider plan review, inspections and permit expediting. This is being completed by local residents and in some cases, prior town staff. The town will discount the permit fees if you use private provider services because they are committed to expediting the process wherever they can. This takes some of the load off the town and shortens the permit cycle. It is worth the cost.
Whether you use a private provider or the towns own reviewers, I advocate that you must be meticulous and make sure you carefully focus on the codes and ordinances that need to be addressed. Be thorough and please do not expect the plan reviewers to do your work for you. Taking an extra hour or day to review your plans can save you days or even weeks in the review process.
BTRN: What is the biggest problem facing homeowners when it comes to permitting?
Mark Raudenbush: Design professionals! The local architects and engineers, just like the town, are overwhelmed. At Idyll Construction we have engaged out of town engineers to expedite the process. The second problem would be knowledge of the local codes and the Flood codes. Building within the CCCL and anywhere within the flood zone adds an additional level of complexity that doesn’t exist in most of Florida.
BTRN: What is your advice to homeowners on how to build back faster and as inexpensively as possible?
Mark Raudenbush: Pre Ian we were a conventional “sticks and bricks” contractor. Since Ian we have fully embraced the speed and efficiency of modular construction. Our community had a construction labor force problem before Ian and its only gotten worse. By leveraging modular we are able to move a large portion of the work out of SW Florida and into a market where the labor is cheaper and more available. I believe modular inherently comes with better quality because of the controlled work environment they are constructed in. There are a few compromises in modular but not as many as you might think. We have also begun designing Hybrid Modular homes wherein we leverage as much modular as we can but then complete the home using conventional construction. It still leverages the speed and efficiency of modular, but gives us the ability to deliver the custom elements that some homeowners want.
BTRN: What do you think the future (of the residential areas) will look like 5, 10 years from now on Fort Myers Beach?
Mark Raudenbush: I’m really excited about the future of the beach. Very soon you’re going to see dozens of colorful cute custom beach homes popping up across the island. We have found that clients are passionate about living on FMB and are brining that passion to their design process. They are doing an excellent job of personalizing their designs and using bright shades of yellow and teal and yes even purple. It’s going to be fantastic. I see lots of eclectic designs, lots of color and overall renewal.
Some parts of the rebuilding process are going to take longer because of DEP and zoning and the time it takes to build the commercial spaces we all want. Residential on the bayside will come back first. Then the new homes and cottages on the beach. Commercial on the beach is the hardest part for a wide variety of reasons, but the discussions have started. I am both optimistic and very excited about what’s to come.
Check out our 5 Questions with Scott Allan at Bayside Builders HERE.