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.
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.
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.