Prefabricated construction (prefab) is the manufacture and assembly of building components in an off-site factory which is then transported to construction sites as complete structures or sub-assemblies. This technique is traditionally known for low-cost, low-quality buildings; however, thanks to digital designing tools, advancements in 3D printing, and robotics, it is now becoming a mainstream sustainable construction solution, delivering fast, high-quality results.
A growing number of startups are coming up with prefab techniques to build all types of structures, including single-family and multi-family residential units as well as commercial buildings. By utilizing fewer resources, generating less waste, and incorporating energy-efficient features into buildings, the aim is to achieve sustainable long-term savings and reduce the environmental impact of construction.
As traditional construction faced project delays during the pandemic, prefab gained momentum and rose to cater to the rising demands of people who wanted to migrate to quieter areas, governments looking to build shelters for housing insecure people, and medical buildings that needed rapid development.
Plant Prefab ’s revenue grew 17% year-on-year (YoY) in 2020.
Connect Homes recorded the most number of bookings in history in 4Q 2020.
Dexterra was chosen by the Toronto Council in May 2020 to build 250 units of housing shelters, to be able to provide shelter for the housing insecure to practice physical distancing.
PCL construction developed a Covid-19 testing center using modular construction at the time of reopening University of Denver in November 2020.
While a few startups operate in multiple segments, a majority specialize in just one. The single-family residential units segment has the highest number of startups, as demand has increased due to remote work becoming the norm. This also stems from the growing need for privacy and the preference for living in suburban or rural areas.
Incumbent traditional modular housing developers only operate in residential and commercial buildings segments and are yet to move into emerging areas such as 3D printing and sustainable mobile houses.
While most startups are at the early and growth stages, sustainable mobile houses and fully 3D printed buildings are at the seed stage, as they are still emerging technologies.
Multifamily residential unit firms Prescient Co., Factory_OS, and Veev, as well as 3D printing company Mighty Buildings dominate the industry in terms of funding, raising more than USD 75 million. Factory_OS and Mighty Building, however, stand out from the rest when it comes to speed to market. Factory_OS says it can construct a 100-unit building in less than 10 days, while Mighty Buildings claims it is capable of developing a 350-square-foot (sq ft) home within 24 hours, whereas others would take at least 30 days.
Meanwhile, Prescient Co. has the highest number of patents (more than 175 approved and pending in 30 countries). Most disruptors use proprietary or patent-pending technology in several areas such as design tools, building systems, material, etc., to set themselves apart.
A majority of the companies operate their own manufacturing plants, but developers such as Abodu and TechPrefab use a network of on-demand partner manufacturers. While most offer standard floor plans with varying degrees of customization, some startups, such as Dvele, S2A Modular, and EcoCraft Homes, offer fully customized prefab houses. In terms of sustainability, most disruptors offer in-built energy generation facilities, while companies like Connect Homes and Bay Build incorporate third-party solutions at the customer’s discretion.
Veev (formerly Dragonfly Group) develops prefabricated single-family and multifamily residential units as well as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from its factory located in Union City, California. It also offers house units on lease. The company started as an asset management company in 2008 and by 2013, started developing housing units. The company adopted prefabricated construction techniques by 2017 with the aim of making affordable housing. In 2019, Veev consolidated its subsidiaries to focus more on the residential housing market.
The company uses new technologies such as panelized wall systems, which use advanced material and digital fabrication to improve longevity and resilience against moisture, earthquakes, wind, fire, etc. Instead of using wood in its houses, Veev uses steel and a high-performance surface (HPS) material that is more durable and environmentally friendly. The company also uses proprietary design software that automates up to 70% of construction across mechanical, engineering, and plumbing functions. The houses also include room-level temperature control and a sensor-based smart building ecosystem to improve resource usage efficiency. By June 2021, Veev completed four single-family residential units and five multifamily residential projects, with more than 800 housing units in total, while several more are under construction.
Veev was the first company to be listed on TASE UP, a platform launched by the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), which allows technology companies to raise funds without going public. In March 2022, the company raised USD 400 million in Series D funding, bringing its total funding to USD 597 million. The funds were expected to be used to scale operations, expand into new markets, and accelerate R&D initiatives to further improve cost efficiency and sustainability.
Single-family residential units:
Multifamily residential units:
Prefabricated commercial buildings and structures:
Most incumbents started out as providers of manufactured houses (movable houses, trailer homes, etc.) built on chassis and have been in business for more than 50 years on average. These companies moved into the prefab industry through a mix of acquisition and in-house development to pursue increasing demand for sustainable construction. A majority of these incumbents conform to most of the green/sustainability certifications.
Out of the incumbents, only TriWest Capital Partners has developed proprietary technology, whereas most disruptors have developed their own technology, covering various aspects such as designing, building systems, material, etc.
No investor data is available