Silicon Valley prefab prodigy acquires traditional contractor to expand

Katerra, the California tech company aiming to redefine construction with mass-customised prefabricated buildings, has bought a traditional contractor in Colorado in its ongoing bid to "propel the construction industry into the 21st century".

Backed enthusiastically by venture capital, Silicon Valley-based Katerra, which has lately been scooping up architectural firms, yesterday announced it had bought Bristlecone Construction, a four-year-old general contractor specialising in commercial and residential blocks up to $55m in project value, in the Denver area.

The acquisition will give Katerra expertise in structural concrete and framing, and help it expand in the central US, Katerra said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bristlecone chief executive Zach Smith said the merger would help his company expand.

"When we compared Bristlecone’s mission statement to Katerra’s it was difficult to tell them apart," Smith said. "This merger allows us to expand the value and services we already provide for our clients and we cannot be more excited to join their team and help them propel the construction industry into the 21st century."

Michael Marks, Katerra’s chairman and co-founder, formerly a long-time CEO of technology firm Flextronics, said: "The expertise and fresh thinking about construction approaches brought by Zach Smith and the Bristlecone leadership team will play a key role in realising our vision to transform the building industry in the United States."

One of Bristlecone’s projects, an $8.4m apartment building on Ogden Street, Denver (Rendering by Range Design & Architecture, via Bristlecone Construction)

Founded in 2015 by a group of real estate and technology chiefs, Katerra has approached the construction process from a technology-first standpoint. Working with engineered timber, it has developed a standard kit of building components, including floor systems, roof truss assemblies and wall panels, to build residential and other buildings in whatever configuration clients want.

It integrates architecture, interior design, engineering, parts manufacturing, logistics and assembly, all managed by its proprietary information technology system and BIM.

Having netted $865m in a funding round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund in January this year, the company is expanding quickly.

Claiming to have $3.7bn worth of building orders, the company has one factory operating in Phoenix, Arizona, a second under construction in Spokane, Washington, and, in July, it announced plans for a third factory in Tracy, California.

In June Katerra acquired Atlanta-based design and planning firm Lord Aeck Sargent (LAS), two weeks after acquiring Michael Green Architecture (MGA), based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Top image: Inside Katerra’s factory in Phoenix, Arizona. Two more are planned, in Spokane, Washington, and Tracy, California (Katerra)

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