Autodesk is making a bet on the future of prefabrication for disaster housing with an investment in FactoryOS and the company’s California-based “Rapid Response Factory.” In addition to allowing the startup to begin experimenting with constructing post-natural disaster homes on the factory floor, the funding will reportedly allow the Bay Area startup to create a Factory Floor Learning Center that will focus on housing policy in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.
FactoryOS founder Rick Holiday explained to Fast Company that after several major natural disasters in California, like the recent forest fires, he received requests to build disaster housing; however, the company was not equipped to meet that demand, nor to build the smaller homes required. Thanks to the investment from Autodesk, Holiday told Fast Company that FactoryOS is “going to explore if [they] can create a standardized unit that could be used for supportive housing, or could be stitched together to create a small-to-medium to a larger-sized building after a natural disaster quickly.”
FactoryOS has been able to streamline homebuilding through vertically integrating the construction process and creating a factory floor that can be used in all weather by union labor while easily integrating digital design and manufacturing. They claim that this precision has allowed them to reduce waste over traditional construction by as much as 40 percent, and costs by over 30 percent. The company believes that prefabrication could be a major answer during this time of national housing crises, when productivity in construction is not only stagnating but decreasing. At the moment, FactoryOS reports that they can create four-to-six apartment units in a day, however, with their continued growth and the addition of the Rapid Response Factory, they are hoping to bring that number up to as many as 16 units in 2021.
According to Fast Company, this new deal will also require intensive data collection and tracking of social impact metrics, as well as environmental impact and cost. FactoryOS, which previously received an investment from Alphabet, has also just received an influx of cash from a Citigroup-funded incubator focused on affordable housing, according to The Verge‘s weekly newsletter.