Feature of the Week
July 8, 2020
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Factory and trades training facility at SOMO Village

  • Adrian Sierra, Devin Neal and Armando Gonzalez install and paint the molding around the windows of playhouses they constructed at the new training facility at SOMO Village. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 28, 2019

Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County signed a lease with SOMO Village June 12 which will open the region’s first industrialized residential construction and trades training center in late summer of this year. This new center will revolutionize how Habitat builds homes and provides modern construction training for the next generation of builders.

It is now a proven fact that Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County will be able to build more homes with better technology.  Angie Moeller, the Chief Development Officer of the facility said, “Instead of building one home a year, this is the real answer to moving faster and less expensive.”

“After the wildfires destroyed over 5,000 homes Habitat leadership knew that the response had to be as historic as the community’s need. Since the fires, Habitat has been piloting new construction technologies and building more homes than any time in the affiliate’s history. Now, the Habitat Center launches a whole new future of building for Habitat and for Sonoma County,” said John F. Kennedy, Interim CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County. 

In the new Habitat Center’s 33,500 square foot of factory, staff and volunteer crews will manufacture wall panels for installation at Habitat for Humanity home building sites across Sonoma county.  The Habitat Center will dramatically expand the organization’s year-round building capacity and will decrease constructions costs and timeliness for future development projects.

In the wake of the Sonoma County wildfire Habitat for Humanity had announced the Sonoma Wildfire Cottage Initiative, a pilot program that will launch efforts to design and build several temporary cottages for families who have been displaced by the fires. The cottages, which showcase three recent innovative building technologies, will be developed and designed in partnership with Marianne Cusato of Cypress Community Development Corporation, who was also the designer of the Katrina cottages after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“We are excited to partner with Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County and Rebuild Wine County to showcase an unprecedented range of prefabricated building solutions,” says Cusato. “With the labor shortage in the building industry, coupled with rising material costs, it is nearly impossible to meet the demand for affordable workforce housing, not just in Sonoma County, but across the nation. This project is a laboratory for the future of residential home building nationwide.”

Global medical technology company Medtronic has donated use of land at their Sonoma County division to host up to 10 cottages. According to a release issued by Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County, the cottages will be designed as efficient, cost-effective, timely, and volunteer-friendly solutions for long-term affordable and workforce housing in Sonoma County. The Medtronic Foundation has also donated $100,000 to further Habitat for Humanity’s relief efforts in Sonoma County, and Rebuild Wine Country—a charitable effort managed by volunteer wine industry professionals from both Napa and Sonoma counties—has raised $1 million thus far, with a goal of raising $5 million for the Sonoma Wildfire Cottage Initiative and additional rebuild efforts by other local Habitat for Humanity organizations in the North Bay.

Habitat for Humanity builds strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.

People in the community and all over the world partner with Habitat to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. With our help, those homeowners achieve the independence they need to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Now with the new training facility, future builders will learn their trades at the Habitat Center through Habitat for Humanity’s innovative educational partner shops with Santa Rosa Junior College and the North Coast Builders Exchange North Bay Construction Corps. High school seniors completing the 2019 North Bay Construction Boot camp are working on Habitat projects across Sonoma County including helping build out the factory work stations at the Habitat Center. In Aug. Santa Rosa Junior College will begin sending its first students to the Habitat Center for classroom instructions and hands-on training in modern construction methodologies. 

Nine homes in Fountaingrove have already been constructed with eleven more to come shortly.

In addition to the wall component factory, the 32,000 square feet of outdoor yard at the Habitat Center will serve as a storage and staging area to receive deeply discounted and donated bulk shipments of building materials. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore will use the Habitat Center to receive and manage large donations of home goods and materials for sale at its Santa Rosa location. 

The SOMO Village Habitat Center will also house the headquarters as well, where Habitat coordinates broad outreach with thousands of community supporters. Sensess Wines founder Christopher Strieter launched Rebuild Wine Country with a group of volunteer wine industry professionals and local Habitat for Humanity chapters to raise money to build, repair and rebuild homes that were lost during the Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake County wildfire. Up to now the group has provided over $1 million to help rebuild the counties. “The Habitat Center will revolutionize how Habitat homes are built and importantly, get families into those homes even quicker,” said Strieter.

Habitat’s Sonoma County model was retooled to focus on multi-family and medium-density designs using environmentally friendly materials and unique construction methods.

In the past year over 1,500 volunteers have helped on the cottages and they will need to recruit 1,000 more in the coming year, 

The panels that are built at the SOMO Village center are stacked on flatbed trucks and trucked to the sites. When panels are stacked the last one on the truck will be the first one to be put on the cottage and so on until the truck has been emptied. 

Most of the work is done with high tech and the software was completely donated by Strong-Tie Tech. Everything is set and run by computers from a room to the side of the large room. Saws will automatically cut to size all wood with automation. 

Over 138 people are already living in Habitat for Humanity constructed cottages in Sonoma County and over 100 are still on the waiting list.  

On Fri. the North Bay Construction Corps Boot Camp held their graduation with a celebration and tour. Large businesses also have their tables set up to interview the graduates and many will walk away with a secured job and high confidence. 

If anyone wants to know more about the Habitat Center or any Habitat for Humanity’s current initiatives in Sonoma County or even donate time, contact Chief Development Officer Angie Moeller at 707-327-8266.