Could Plant Prefab Solve California's Housing Crisis?

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Could Plant Prefab Solve California's Housing Crisis?

Promising cheaper, greener homes, Rialto-based Plant Prefab is seeing demand soar, as housing prices are hitting new highs.

Last week, Plant Prefab opened its second factory, in Ontario, and on Tuesday announced that it raised an additional $30 million for a third highly automated factory. The homes are priced lower than new construction – a key selling point as the cost of housing skyrockets to levels not seen in decades.

Prefabricated housing construction has exploded in recent years, as L.A. has looked to the dwelling style as a way of diversifying its housing supply and tackling the housing crisis.

Plant Prefab says its forthcoming third factory will allow the company to cut waste by up to 30% while saving 10% to 25% on cost and reducing construction times by 20% to 50% compared to traditional building methods.

Prefab also claims their homes are 30% better than the average home built in California in 2020 under Title 24 energy efficiency standards. Both new plants, including the one that opened last week in Ontario, California, will simply allow the company to do more volume, too. As the 94-person company closes in on completing its 100th building, founder and CEO Steve Glenn says their focus will remain on urban settings where the customization options offered by Plant Prefab make it an attractive option for developers building where space is at a premium and often irregular in shape. But before Plant Prefab got its start six years ago, Glenn says the combination of high quality, sustainable, and custom prefabricated homes wasn't the norm.

"If a company existed and it had the right technology and processes, we could solve the problems of hundreds of thousands of individuals and affordable housing nonprofits who need a better way to build, particularly for cities, which is where most custom projects were built," he said.

Prefabricated construction offers a number of advantages that makes it appealing for builders who are trying to reduce waste, save money and lessen the environmental impacts. Building in a factory rather than onsite eliminates variables like weather, allowing builders to work all year round without concern for rain or snow. Factories also allow for much greater precision and easier recycling.

"When you see a site-built house, there are dumpsters filled with debris. Most of that debris can be recycled in a factory. Drywall is recycled, the wood is recycled, metal is sent back to the metal workers," said Sheri Koones, an expert on prefabrication and author of "Downsize: Living Large in a Small House."

Koones also points out that when you're building indoors you don't have to worry about closing the structure up quickly, which allows for more careful application of insulation and energy savings over the lifetime of the house. Items like windows and flooring can be purchased in bulk and delivery trucks only need to make one stop, which burns less fuel than visiting multiple sites.

"[Plant Prefab] have always been very environmentally friendly and they've always looked for innovative ways to make their houses green," she said.

For Glenn, who had abandoned his childhood dreams of architecture in college and entered into the world of tech—prior to Plant Prefab, he was CEO of PeopleLink and a VR imagineer at Disney — the return to architecture, albeit on the business end, is a welcome one. After all, he explains, if he can't be an architect himself, he can still work as a developer and hire talented architects and "let them do great things."

And that experience in software has proven plenty valuable.

"I'm a big fan of a lean startup approach," he said. "It reflects something that software engineers learned in the '80s, which is if you spend too much time on design up front, it turns out you don't really know enough about the problem."

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The Influencer-to-Podcaster Pipeline Is Ready to Explode

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at
The Influencer-to-Podcaster Pipeline Is Ready to Explode
Evan Xie

It’s no secret that men dominate the podcasting industry. Even as women continue to grow their foothold, men still make up many of the highest-earning podcasts, raking in massive paychecks from ad revenue and striking deals with streaming platforms worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But a new demographic is changing that narrative: Gen-Z female influencers and content creators.

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NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
Evan Xie

NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL deputy director Larry James told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California.

“In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, James said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. James added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

James said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

The Moon and Mars

Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” James said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

International Space Station

NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” James said.

James added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. James said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” James said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

In the long term, James was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” James said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.

Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’
Provided by BHE

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Three Wishes founder and CEO Margaret Wishingrad talks about creating brand awareness and shares the key component to running a successful business.

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