A warm, dry spring preceded by a mild winter has added fuel to an already active building market.
Contractors throughout the valley say that they never really put their hammers down this past winter, and now they are preparing for a busy summer.
Building permits in the first few months of 2018 throughout the valley have increased from the same time period last year — further supporting the notion that construction activity is on the rise. In the City of Gunnison, sales tax revenue on building materials during the month of January climbed more than 11 percent over the same month in 2017.
“March came along and permits started rolling in,” said Gunnison Building Official Eric Jansen.
On a national scale, industry experts are estimating a 5 percent slide in new construction starts this year. However, residential building was expected to increase 10 percent for the first two months of 2018, according to Dodge Data and Analytics, a forecaster in the construction industry.
Building permits in unincorporated Gunnison County for the first three months of this year are double what they were during the same time period in 2017. Sixteen permits were issued for the first three months of 2018, compared to eight during the same time period last year.
County Building and Health Official Crystal Lambert said while the number of permits issued thus far is not alarmingly high, demand for inspections — such as framing and insulation — during the winter months also increased.
“Overall, we are starting spring with our current projects further along in the construction process than we normally see,” Lambert said. “We are hearing from designers and contractors that the demand for construction is going to be high and many are already booked through the season.”
On Wednesday, Gunnison County hosted its annual "construction season kickoff meeting," at which county officials explained significant code and process changes and reviewed the permitting process.
The towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte also report issuing more permits. The City of Gunnison actually issued one less permit through March of this year compared to 2017 — but Building Official Eric Jansen said he had several more applications on his desk ready for review.
Local contractors confirm what building officials and planner say — they never really stopped working over the winter. Some builders in the Gunnison Valley cease construction during the coldest months and fill gaps in work by providing snow removal. Yet, wIth low snow totals and warmer temperatures, construction projects continued through the end of 2017 into 2018.
“It’s a good year,” said Chris Klein, owner of Chris Klein Construction. “It was an easy winter which is good for us. We never shut down this year and things are starting just about right on time. We could have started earlier but we were busy doing other stuff.”
Klein said some projects — such as installing siding and painting — began earlier than what is typical each spring. However, foundation pours for his company started this week, which is about average, he said.
“We’ve had a lot of years that flat out stunk — two years ago our volume was down,” said Klein. “Last year it really kicked in good, and this year is phenomenal. That’s just how our business is.”
(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)