Plant Prefab, which says it is the first Certified B Corporation building technology company dedicated to sustainable design, materials, and operations, has signed a long-term lease to open America’s “first automated factory devoted to efficiently and sustainably building multifamily developments and custom single-family homes”.
The new 270,000-square-foot facility will be situated on 17 acres in the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center 25 miles south of Bakersfield, California, and will serve as Plant Prefab’s third factory.
Slated to break ground in January 2022, the facility will be purpose-built to efficiently manufacture custom-prefabricated panelized and modular building components.
The factory will be Plant Prefab’s first automated facility, utilizing sophisticated machinery driven by Plant Prefab digital modeling data to achieve even greater production velocity and a level of quality assurance and cost, time and material efficiency unmatched by any other custom housing manufacturer.
It will serve as Plant Prefab’s first regional production hub, expanding the company’s service area to the entire Western United States and employing up to 440 people. Construction on the $30 million factory is expected to wrap in late 2022.
Steve Glenn, Founder and CEO of Plant Prefab, says: “The launch of our hub is a critical milestone in Plant Prefab’s broader mission to make architectural, sustainable housing more accessible, as it allows us to expand our capabilities from single-family and small multifamily housing into high-volume, large-scale developments – including student, affordable, and market-rate housing for real estate, hospitality, and corporate developers.
“Materially expanding the end markets we serve helps address critical housing issues in supply- and labor-constrained markets. Our expanded capabilities will allow us to provide an even faster and more predictable, repeatable and sustainable building solution for both developers and consumers.”
The hub facility will allow for the full industrialization of Plant Prefab’s patented Plant Building System, which combines advanced engineering with specialized Plant Panels and Plant Modules to build custom housing 20 to 50 percent faster than traditional building methods with up to 30 percent less waste at a 10 to 25 percent cost savings in labor-constrained markets.
Plant Prefab’s engineering-driven digital modeling tools and processes, which the company has optimized over the past five years, fuel the efficiencies.
The company says that its process bridges the gap between design and construction. Plant Prefab’s digital modeling coordinates the routing of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing through the structure, “vastly reducing rework and delays”; it standardizes the production of custom housing projects into panelized and modular building components; and “advances state-of-the-art finish application in manufactured wall production”.
Plant Prefab’s Tejon Ranch production hub will enable a step change in speed to market, with production velocity anticipated to be 15 times that of the company’s existing facilities. The hub will be capable of producing 900,000 square feet of living space per year – the equivalent of 800 dwelling units.
The facility’s panel production lines have been specially designed to efficiently accommodate the unique dimensions, performance standards and finish specifications of each project, and the facility will be capable of producing modules complete with all finishes, fixtures and appliances for minimal on-site finish work.
Joseph Rentfro, Tejon Ranch Company’s executive vice president of real estate, says: “We are pleased to welcome Plant Prefab to the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center.
“We offer a state-of-the art commercial/industrial center strategically located between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, with efficient access to the Interstate 5. Given the location, Plant Prefab will be able to reach the entire Western US and have room for future growth.”
The new production hub also enables a step change in sustainability, as the facility is being built to Plant Prefab’s strict environmental standards to minimize energy and water use, and to safeguard employee health.
Energy-efficient lighting, appliances and mechanical systems, coupled with high-performance windows, water-efficient fixtures and utility monitoring will minimize resource consumption, while solar power will offset electricity consumption.
These efficiencies are critical to meeting Plant Prefab’s goal of achieving carbon-neutral operations by 2028.
Like all Plant Prefab factories, the hub facility will build client projects using healthy and sustainable building materials, including wool-based insulation and recycled drywall, as well as zero-VOC paints, stains, and sealants.
The facility will also build to Plant Prefab’s extremely tight tolerances, producing high-performance wall assemblies that ensure optimal energy performance for the life of the home.
In fact, in 2020, Plant Prefab-constructed homes outperformed California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards by 10.4 percent, on average, while those designed by the Plant Design Studio outperformed efficiency standards by an average 30 percent.
Since its founding, dozens of Plant Prefab’s projects have achieved LEED for Homes Platinum or Gold certification, making the company one of the most experienced designers and builders of healthy, sustainable, high-performance homes.
Plant Prefab’s design and estimating teams are now engaging projects for the new Tejon Ranch facility, which expects to begin production in January 2023.
The launch of the hub will be well timed to help Plant Prefab accommodate rising demand from a growing list of clients, as production contracts have grown by more than 175 percent in the past year and its backlog is more than twice its current factory capacity.
Looking ahead, Plant Prefab expects to replicate its hub-and-spoke production model, allowing it to scale efficiently to meet demand across urban infill markets in other regions across the country, including the East Coast.