Could Plant Prefab Solve California's Housing Crisis?

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among 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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Venture Firm BackStage Capital Reduces Staff to 3 Employees

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Venture Firm BackStage Capital Reduces Staff to 3 Employees
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Venture firm Backstage Capital laid off nine employees, reducing its staff to just three.

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Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

A New Tide of LA Startups Is Tackling the National Childcare Crisis
Image by Carolyn Figel

The pandemic exacerbated a problem that has been long bubbling in the U.S.: the childcare crisis.

According to a survey of people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers conducted by the city’s WiSTEM Los Angeles program and shared exclusively with dot.LA, the pandemic exposed a slew of challenges across STEM fields. The survey—which consisted of 181 respondents from L.A.County and was conducted between March 2021 and 2022— involved respondents across medical fields, technical professions and science industries who shared the pandemic’s effects on their professional or education careers.

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MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern 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.

MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund
Courtesy of MaC Venture Capital

While venture capital funding has taken a hit this year, that hasn’t stopped MaC Venture Capital from raising $203 million for its second fund.

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