Autodesk invests in modular factory to tackle San Francisco housing crisis

Software giant Autodesk and the bank, Citi, have invested undisclosed amounts in a volumetric modular construction start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

They said the investment in the firm, Factory_OS, was intended to address the growing affordable housing crisis in the area and beyond, and to help transform the construction industry.

The cash will help Factory_OS build its Factory Floor Learning Center for research into industrialised construction and the changes needed in public policy to capitalise on it. This work will be led by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.

It will also help create a new “Rapid Response Factory” intended to build homes quickly after disasters.

Autodesk will contribute software to streamline housing design, fabrication and supply chain management.

Factory_OS was founded in 2017 by veteran affordable housing developer Rick Holliday, 65, after he was asked by Google to supply 300 modular housing units.

It is headquartered in the iconic “Building 680”, the machine shop of Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, north of San Francisco, where the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet was rebuilt after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Of the investment announced 10 July, Holliday said: “Factory_OS was started with scaleability in mind. Changing the way housing is built requires an evolution in everything from how workers are trained to the methods used in order to ensure increased productivity and therefore lower costs and time-to-market. We believe our model can help create real impact in the Bay Area and beyond and Autodesk’s investment helps make this even more of a reality.”

Andrew Anagnost, CEO of Autodesk, said: “Factory_OS is a pioneer that is revolutionising the approach to modularised homebuilding and making the dream of affordable housing in cities a reality. We’re honoured to support their mission, in collaboration with Citi, of giving families safe and affordable homes to call their own. I have no doubt our continued collaboration will serve as a springboard to addressing the growing housing crisis nationwide.”

Citi is backing Factory_OS through its Spread Products Investment Technologies (SPRINT) initiative within the ICG division, which formed in 2018 to invest and engage new technology partners, and Citi Community Capital, the bank unit through which Citi works to finance all types of affordable housing and community development projects.

On its website, Factory_OS says it will create more than 300 permanent, full-time jobs that pay up to $60,000 (£48,330) a year and provide full health and retirement benefits. 

The company has an agreement with the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council to recruit and train local workers.

Image: Inside Factory_OS (Supplied by Autodesk)

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