US prefab housing ‘unicorn’ Katerra plans fourth factory, in Texas

Councillors in the Texas city of San Marcos this week approved an incentive agreement easing the way for a $109m factory planned by Silicon Valley-based prefab housing "unicorn", Katerra.

The 600,000-sq-ft factory, not previously announced by the high-tech builder, would be its fourth in the pipeline as it continues its bid to "propel the construction industry into the 21st century".

It would employ 542 people and make components for the southern-central US market, a Katerra manager told local newspaper Community Impact.

Due to its location on State Highway 80, a neighbouring municipality, Caldwell County, must also approve the incentive agreement.

If successful there, Katerra plans to start building the factory next year and be finished by March 2020, reports Community Impact.

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 multi-storey residential and other buildings in whatever configuration clients want (one is rendered above).

Having netted $865m in a funding round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund in January this year, the company is expanding quickly, and is considered a "unicorn" in venture capital jargon, meaning a private start-up valued at over $1bn.

Seeking to integrate all aspects of the construction process, Katerra has used some of this capital to snap up architectural firms (see below).

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

Katerra 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.

The San Marcos factory, for which the city council approved its incentive agreement on 16 October, would be its fourth.

This agreement would see the company get annual part-refunds on property taxes for 10 years, and the waiver of certain regulatory requirements relating to the factory’s construction and exterior layout, reports San Marcos Corridor News.

Image: Render of "Annadel II", a 120-unit apartment block Katerra is in Santa Rosa, California, designed by BAR Architects (Katerra)

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