The Boom from and Architect’s Perspective

The other story we heard Friday morning was from an architect at the company. Here is his path from the previous post:

The architect studied at NDSU and spent the first 25 years of his career in Minneapolis designing several built projects ranging from healthcare to housing. After the 2008 economic crash he left his job and heard of work booming in Williston prompting him to visit for the first time in 2010. He told stories of sleeping in a sleeping bag in a flooded basement with up to eight other guys, because at that time there was nowhere to live. He would travel back to his family every six weeks. He worked for a small architecture and engineering company and was eventually hired by his current company. Meanwhile he finally was able to buy a house to move his family to Williston permanently. Through some incredible hardship he asserts that he never regrets coming here.

A very different background than the developer, and a different specialization. We began by asking him questions related to our project. We began with materials and the supply chain. Most building materials come in by rail and truck, but rail is usually delayed because there is lack of rail spurs and projects to build them are delayed. Most materials need to be delivered in bulk –sometimes resulting in excess waste. He told us that architects there cannot rely on the market supply chain; instead they use networks of friends and business partners to make their own supply streams happen. He went on to describe why modular construction makes so much sense here. Quality construction work is hard to come by when you are competing with oil salaries, so building offsite with skilled labor elsewhere is more effective. Additionally the weather here is harsh. A short construction season and brutally cold and windy winter make factory construction favorable and result in better quality. It just so happens that most economic modular solution comes in the form of single-wide poorly insulated identical units that are found all over the Bakken. Modular construction is also used in commercial architecture such as the hotel we stayed in. It too was cramped, cold, and everything was cheap, except for the rates… at $200/night.IMG_5637 - Copy

We asked the architect about future development and the potential for any post boom industry. He told us of the need to redevelop and beautify the town center, converting the light industrial districts to commercial and retail, and the need for parking downtown. He thought high density apartment with rooftop restaurants and bars could be a good direction for the downtown area. He did believe that any future industry would be oil related.

IMG_5202 - CopyAfter we met with him he gave us a tour of the construction site of a 60,000 square foot multi-use clinic he designed. His clear knowledge and role and the design, detail, and construction administration of the project made it clear how multi-faceted his role as an architect needed to be here.

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