Housing report: Construction pro needed | AspenTimes.com

Housing report: Construction pro needed

Janet Urquhart

Hiring a construction manager is one way to help save on the cost of building worker housing, according to a report to be reviewed by the Housing Board tonight.

Adding such a position to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority staff is but one recommendation outlined in the report, prepared by Vertex Engineering Services.

The housing office hired Vertex in May to compare the costs of constructing two recently completed affordable housing projects – Snyder Park, built by the Housing Authority, and Alpine Cottages, built by a private developer. Both are located on the east side of town.

Alpine Cottages contains 10 affordable housing units and 28 bedrooms, with 15,355 square feet of living space on .43 acres. Snyder Park offers 15 units and 27 bedrooms, with 17,682 square feet of living space on 1.25 acres.

According to the Vertex report, construction at Alpine Cottages cost $180 per square foot, compared to $197 per square foot at Snyder Park. Total land, development and construction costs for Alpine Cottages was $290 per square foot, compared to $325 per square foot at Snyder Park.

Snyder Park, notes the report, consists of seven separate buildings with a lower density on the lot and fewer bedrooms per dwelling. Alpine Cottages gained its economic advantage through higher density and fewer buildings – only two. Alpine Cottages has larger units, on average, with more bedrooms.

The Housing Authority, says the report, should recommend higher lot densities “if the community values economy over aesthetics.”

“The economics of Snyder could have been improved considerably by setting higher dwelling densities,” according to the report.

The report also concludes the housing office could benefit by hiring a construction manager/estimator to assist in the negotiation of contracts and aid with the construction process. The office could achieve savings “well in excess” of the salary paid to the individual, according to the report.

The suggestion has merit, according to a memo to the Housing Board from Jay Leavitt, director of development and construction for the housing office.

The goal of building some 150 units per year, to the tune of $30 million annually, “would certainly justify a housing construction estimator/manager with a high degree of experience and local knowledge to be part of the housing office team,” Leavitt noted.

Vertex’s report also suggests housing office construction contracts include a “buyout” provision to be used if the office discovers a significant savings can be realized by, for example, switching subcontractors when a contractor is charging the agency unfairly or failing to do the work.

The report also suggests the housing office negotiate a contract with the general contractor early, before the design is fully defined, so the contractor can collaborate with the architect and Housing Authority. Negotiated contracts may offer a better deal than competitively bid jobs, given the high demand for construction work in Pitkin County, according to the report.

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