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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Offsite Factories Picking Up Steam in US

Katerra recently announced that it would build a 577,000-sf advanced manufacturing plant in Tracy, Calif., that when fully operational next year would employ 500 people and be able to pump out 12,500 multifamily modules per year. Katerra is also building three more component plants, and a 250,000-sf mass timber plant in Spokane, Wash., that will produce cross-laminated wall panels and floor systems. Katerra is planning another mass timber plant in the Southeast.When operational, the Spokane plant should produce almost 5 million cubic feet of cross-laminated timber annually.

Founded in 2015, Menlo Park-based Katerra most recently raised an $865 million round of financing in January, led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Other investors include Foxconn and DFJ.
Katerra has also been making industry waves with its mergers and acquisitions strategy. In June, the company acquired two architecture firms in two weeks — Michael Green Architecture in Portland, Oregon, and Lord Aeck Sargent, in Atlanta, Georgia. After the transactions were complete, Katerra saw its workforce double, and its licensing capacity increase to 31 states and Canada's British Columbia and Alberta provinces.
Also in June, Katerra announced a merger with Indian manufacturing technology company KEF Infra. The newly formed company of KEF Katerra has already generated $3.7 billion in new business and will focus its attention on projects like hospitals and schools
Offsite manufacturing has steadily seeped into nonresidential and multifamily construction, to the point where a number of general contractors have set up temporary or permanent factories for prefabricating components or for producing modules that can be delivered, virtually complete, to jobsites for quick final assembly and utility hookups.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, I would like to understand this better.

Is Katerra saying they can build 12,500 volumetric Modular units or their wall panels? If volumetric Modular units and not wall panels, I suspect they will need more than 500 people to do that.

I am 100% behind more automation and offsite building techniques, I am hopeful we can get our nomenclature correct.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is 12,500 individual apt units (shipped as panels).

Anonymous said...



agree with the above comment about panels.

Would it not, then, be more appropriate to say that?

Panels not Modules?

bill hart said...

Nomenclature has been screwed with from the beginning of time..trailer, coach, single wide, double triple wide...the now a modular you name it..prefab or prefabrication is a method not a thing or a building! ..just a condominium is a method of conveyance.. not a type of building..

Even the realtor's GRI courses can get its building names straight either.. bi level tri level raised ranch...colonial vs two story? Oh well! All substantial "stick built" mid size on your lot builder in most areas buy precut packages from area biggies like Your Building, 84, etc etc..simply based and pre planned plans committed ahead each year at least..by most companies that do about 75 or 100 Homes ie platforms..when mrs jones buys the deal, ie presold ..they just email the twinked modifications on the appropriate of file platform to the prefabrication yards that have it on file, the yard makes the adjustment and the adjusted precut package delivered ready to frame on deck.

The difference is of course.. the regional on your lot semi biggie can call and does call it a holy grail stick built..so "mrs jones ..its worth more than a that mod..mrs jones nods and agrees"..you know the drill!

Kam Valgardson said...

The way I read it, they're producing 12,500 mods out of their mod plant in CA, and then they've got other component plants that are discussed further. Our factory, a smaller, custom shop of 58000 sf, has produced up to 150 mods per year with 25 guys. Scale at 20x and add some economies of scale, and you could get up to 12,500 per year if the mods are uniform and processes are streamlined.

I love this. It's going to bring more attention and investment to our industry. I hope they're successful.

Anonymous said...


Kam,

you have a well-running machine and should be proud of what you are able to accomplish.
You would need to scale more than 20x your baseline if you were to produce 12,500. If it was Modules you would need to produce 50 modules per day based upon 250 work days per year.
The point here is that what is being discussed is not volumetric Modular buildings but rather panels.
Example, if you were to build 1 volumetric module that is 6 panels or components.