Andrew Pogue

ARCHITECT contributor Karrie Jacobs says: The signs have been clear for some time now: Elon Musk is planning to dig tunnels under cities for his Hyperloop transportation projects and newly announced “car skates” that will, someday, perhaps, zip vehicles from downtown Chicago to O’Hare Airport. Google is building a dense mixed-use development for its workers in Sunnyvale, Calif., and a highly optimized, sensor-filled, data-driven neighborhood in Toronto. Tech hothouses like Y Combinator have periodically announced plans to build entire cities from scratch. Clearly, the tech industry has grown bored with the virtual world and now has designs on reshaping our actual urban reality. This is happening even in the torpid backwater that is the residential construction industry.

Consider Factory OS in Vallejo, Calif., which is manufacturing housing modules designed to be stacked into four- and five-story apartment buildings. The company delivers units “tech ready” and fabricates them with “cutting-edge software.” It’s launching an Innovation Lab at the factory in partnership with UC Berkeley. Meanwhile, Menlo Park, Calif.–based Katerra, with over a billion dollars in venture capital, is applying its technological know-how to the manufacture of engineered timber building components for use in multifamily residential and mixed-use projects.

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