Amazon is making a play for the prefabricated construction and smart home markets, investing in a California startup that manufactures custom single and multi-family homes that it claims are “high-quality, sustainable, healthy and durable”.
The behemoth Seattle-based electronic commerce and cloud computing company’s Alexa Fund announced its financial support for the prefabricated construction startup, called Plant Prefab, on Tuesday.
The prefab startup claims to be the first home factory in the US to focus on sustainable construction, materials, processes and operations.
The fledgling company aims to reduce construction time by 50 per cent and costs by 10-25 per cent in major cities. Its homes are also built to minimise the negative impact of development on energy, water, resources and indoor air quality.
Ray Kappe, Kieran Timberlake and Yves Behar are among the architects and designers that have partnered with the company so far.
“In the housing-crunched major cities like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, along with areas like Silicon Valley, it takes too much time to build a home from groundbreaking to occupancy, and labor shortages, construction delays and increased construction costs are exacerbating this trend even further – and making homes increasingly less affordable,” Plant Prefab founder and chief executive officer Steve Glenn said.
“Building homes in factories addresses these challenges, particularly as we’re able integrate online technology, new building systems, and automation to dramatically reduce the time and cost necessary to design and build high-quality, custom homes.”
Amazon’s investment follows a series of product announcements in smart home technology to be controlled by the Alexa voice assistant, according to CNBC. This includes a smart microwave oven and a new service called Alexa Hunches that learns to ask if lights should go on or off (among other functions) based on previous activity.
“We’re thrilled to support [Plant Prefab] as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers,” Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said on Tuesday.
“Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3500 different brands,” he said.
Venture capital firm Obvious Ventures also funded Plant Prefab in its series A funding round, which raised $US6.7 million in total.