Builder Crush: Christopher Gate ConstructionAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Raised by a grandfather who was a master carpenter, from an early age British native Christopher Gate was destined to build. His exposure to craft inspired him as a child to create and sell handmade items through the local paper. After studying business management in Manchester and a brief stint working as a landscape architect in Berlin, Gate was led to San Francisco where he trained under a master builder and discovered his love for construction. Since 2005, Christoper Gate Construction has worked with iconic architects and designers to develop several luxury residences throughout the Bay Area. Here, we ask Gate more about his career and the current climate in Bay Area development.
-With over 30 years in the business, what has been the most significant change you have experienced in the building industry? The introduction of new technology has significantly changed the way we do business. For example, advances project management software now allow every member of the team (including the architects, designers and homeowners) to communicate more efficiently and know exactly where a project stands at any given time. Better access to information enables the team to make decisions quickly and stay on top of schedules in ways that weren’t possible in the past. Even something as simple as the introduction of cell phones has been a game changer in how we communicate on job sites. It’s hard to imagine going back to the days before these tools existed.
-We read your work is inspired by your grandfather who was a craftsman. Which other contractor has inspired your work the most and why? When I arrived in San Francisco in 1989, I had the opportunity to apprentice under a fantastic master builder who not only taught me the tools of the trade, but also how to manage teams to get the best out of them. He was a terrific role model and I really respected the way he interacted with his people. He was approachable, made time for them and set an example of how to treat employees with respect. It showed me the importance of not just quality craftsmanship, but also quality leadership in the field.
-What is the biggest challenge with building in the Bay Area? With so much growth in the Bay Area, qualified labor is often in short supply. Finding and keeping the right people is key to success and we’re fortunate to have a fantastic team and a high retention rate among our employees. I think investing in our people and having great projects to work on have made all the difference in our ability to build a highly skilled team that loves what they do.
-When it comes to high-end construction, the devil is truly in the details. How do you empower your teams to build at the level you want to see executed? I place a high degree of trust in my team. They’re encouraged to take initiative, think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions in the field. Over the years we’ve also developed invaluable relationships with subs that have the same high standards as we do. We want to work with people that think like we do and share our mindset that the job is not over until the client is happy.
-Which project are you most proud of? One of our recent projects involved a complete ground up renovation of an outdated Victorian in Noe Valley. The homeowners wanted to modernize every inch of the interiors and bring light into the previously dark and compartmentalized spaces. It was a major transformation and with some innovative designs like a glass bottom balcony off the master bedroom. We also did a massive excavation to create subterranean library in the old basement—it involved executing complex designs to bring natural light all the way from the second story and it was really rewarding to see the final result.
-Favorite secret spot in Sausalito? During the pandemic I discovered some of Sausalito’s hidden steps and paths that go up between the houses and through the woods. They come out on top of the Robin Williams tunnel and are a fantastic way to explore the area.
-What new, innovative material are you most excited to work with? Energy Recovery Units (ERV) have become especially popular lately as they can significantly improve a home’s indoor air quality.
-Favorite place to travel to in California? I love the Central Coast, especially San Luis Obispo and the Monterey Peninsula. Between their beautiful beaches and sprawling countryside, they’ve got it all.
-If you weren’t a builder, what would you be? If there was a way to travel for a living, I would! Perhaps I’d be an international hotel developer, exploring faraway places along the way.
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