Fast homes

How fast and cheap can we build the new neighbourhoods I have described in the pages above? Don’t eco-apartments take a year or so to build, and cities take decades?

On this page:-

  • Assembly line homes
  • Cities transformed in 20 years

 

Assembly line homes

About a century ago, Ford to the process of making cars and put it up on the assembly line to bring manufacturing speeds up and costs down. The same thing is about to happen with accomodation. Why not design an individual home or eco-apartments on the computer, but then put the manufacturing process on the assembly line in a weather-proof factory floor? As we saw on the page above (Tall Timbers), at London’s Stadthaus, a team of four put the first eight floors of structure together in less than a month. The entire building was finished in less than a year. Four people built an apartment in a year!

 

But the money, the sheer investment in assembly line, factory controlled housing construction, is going up. For this next story I’ll just hand you straight over to Next Big Future:-


Katerra is taking systems approaches to remove unnecessary time and costs from buildingdevelopment, design, and construction.

Katerra is off to a fast start with more than 1500 employees, offices in four countries, a growing number of factories, and dozens of active projects.

Softbank invested $865 million into the construction startup Katerra who will source all parts for a detailed building design and build it in a factory and then send modules for onsite assembly.Katerra’s post-money valuation is more than $3 billion.

Katerra runs the process of getting a building up and people inside it from the architectural design components all the way through labor management and renovation.

In January 2018, Katerra said it had $1.3 billion in customer bookings so far for new construction ranging from residential to hospitality and student housing.

Over the past 80 years, industries in the U.S. such as manufacturing and agriculture have increased their productivity by 10 to 15 times, but one industry seems stuck in place: construction. Construction has enjoyed the lowest productivity gains of any industry over the past twenty years – which presents an opportunity for firms to leverage technology and digital supply chains to dramatically improve productivity in the $10 trillion industry.

Katerra’s Solution

Katerra is fundamentally rethinking construction and is working to become an “end-to-end”, vertically integrated builder. It claims that “when the entire building process is owned by a single team from end to end – bringing design, manufacturing, material sourcing, and construction together intro one streamlined system – it is possible to build high quality, beautiful buildings, faster and at a lower cost.” On the production front, the company has built a 200,000 SF factory in Phoenix, AZ where it can manufacture various components of a building, such as whole walls complete with windows, plumbing and electrical wiring hookups. These “parts” can then be shipped and installed at a building site, aided by technology that tells cranes and labor where and how to assemble the finished materials. By manufacturing and assembling the various components of a building at its factory, Katerra endeavors to reduce the variability associated with building on-site, as well as reduce inventory build-ups.

* They are constructing building panels/components of the buildings inside the factory, but not entire rooms or modules.
* The cost savings in shipping the panels to the site are better than modules or units, which is what others have done.
* They are rethinking the entire process from end to end, using technology to modernize it wherever possible.

The combination of those three assets set Katerra apart and have driven their tremendous growth to date.

They are currently focused on larger construction projects.

A month before the Katerra deal, SoftBank led a $450 million investment in startup real-estate brokerage Compass, and a $120 million investment in home-insurance startup Lemonade. In August 2017, the fund invested $4.4 billion in coworking giant WeWork.

SoftBank is holding deal talks with OpenDoor, a startup which buys homes directly from owners and sells them, according to sources familiar with the situation. Founded in 2013, OpenDoor is now buying more than $1 billion worth of homes per year.

Cities transformed in 20 years

Not really! Cities can change significantly in just 20 years. From our immediate human perspectives lived day by day, we often forget how much is actually changing in our city over time. While much of the western world seems devoted to increasing suburban sprawl, there are signs of change and awakening. Over time, with the right planning laws, our suburbs can collapse back in on themselves. They can become dense and diverse and lively and beautiful; surrounded by parks, gardens, farmlands, forestry, plantations, and wilderness. All of this can be achieved by rezoning the land and then letting the natural attrition of aging buildings take over.“But they can be redesigned, not over night, but steadily and with compounding beneficial interest.”
Richard Register

“A normal city is changing all the time – buildings grow old and are replaced. Just look at a picture of your city fifty or a hundred years ago. If the average building life is 60 years, then the city changes at the rate of 1.6% per year. I took as the basis for this scenario the average size of an average Swedish municipality – 36,000 inhabitants. I assumed that instead of building the houses on that same plot as the one demolished you build eco units on the periphery of the city, along the roads preferably. Then you start to ruralise at the same pace as the normal replacement rate. After 50 years, only ten percent of the city is left.”

Folke Günther

“There’s no need to wait on building bright green cities. Better design solutions for buildings, communities and, in many cases, infrastructure either already exist or are mid-development. If we spend the next 20 years developing compact neighborhoods with green buildings and smart infrastructure, we can reduce the ecological impacts of American prosperity by jumps that are now somewhat hard to imagine.”
Alex Steffen — Worldchanging

Indeed, as The Guardian points out, there are a significant signs that indicate we have already reached ‘peak car’ just from lifestyle changes and some city supply saturations. Let’s capitalise on that and build both the rail and new urbanism to create neighbourhoods worth caring about.

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