“Aircon unit that fits in a wall”: Prefab start-up Katerra launches new products

Katerra, the SoftBank-backed technology company aiming to "redefine construction" with prefabrication, launched new products in Las Vegas on Monday.

An integrated power kit, self-tinting windows and an air-conditioning unit that fits inside walls were among the new offerings unveiled at the event on 18 February.

"The products we are introducing today demonstrate how technology can make building better, smarter, and more efficient," said Michael Marks, chairman and co-founder of the Silicon Valley start-up, in a press release.

Founded in 2015, Katerra has attracted more than $2bn in equity capital investments from multiple funding rounds, including more than $1.5bn from the SoftBank Vision Fund.

Working with cross-laminated timber (CLT), Katerra has developed a standard kit of building components, including floor systems, roof truss assemblies and wall panels, to build multi-storey residential and other buildings in whatever configuration clients want.

Above: Exploded view of a Katerra bath kit. Below: A Katerra Bath Kit is moved into place at the K90 building. The Bath Kit is designed to be assembled in less than a day by only two people (Trevor DeWitt/Katerra)

It has a factory operating in Phoenix, Arizona, a second under construction in Spokane, Washington, and plans for two more, one in Tracy, California and another in San Marcos, Texas.

It claims to have $3.7bn worth of building orders so far.

The company used the Las Vegas event to announce "Katerra Energy System" which it said would replace the typical electrical closets in apartment buildings and other building types with a single appliance combining metering and distribution.

It unveiled an HVAC product that "fits seamlessly in the wall".

For windows Katerra said it is partnering with Kinestral Technologies to integrate smart-tinting glass technology.

It also launched a "Bath Kit" designed to be installed on site in less than a day by two people.

"Progress won’t come with incremental measures – we are pursuing transformational change on a massive scale," said Marks, former long-time head of electronics manufacturer, Flextronics.

Some of the products are being showcased at Katerra’s K90 apartment block project outside Las Vegas. Katerra said this 24-unit building will completed in 90 days.

Top photograph: Katerra designed K90, a 24-unit apartment building, to be completed in 90 days near Las Vegas (Trevor DeWitt/Katerra)

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