- Offsite design-build company Katerra acquired two architecture firms in the past two weeks – first Michael Green Architecture in Portland, Oregon, and then Lord Aeck Sargent in Atlanta. The two deals gives Katerra architect licenses in 31 states plus in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.
- Michael Green Architecture is known for its use of mass timber. Founder Michael Green said his firm and Katerra provide sustainable, high-performance, affordable buildings, and that "Katerra’s goal to accomplish this on a large scale aligns with MGA’s long-term ambition." The architecture firm designed the groundbreaking T3 mass timber office building in Minneapolis, for example.
- The acquisition of Lord Aeck Sargent, which counts sustainable urban projects in its portfolio, doubles the size of Katerra's design staff. According to Katerra, LAS will continue its drive for "responsive design, technological expertise and exceptional service."
Along with expanding its practice through acquisitions, Katerra said that it plans to open six manufacturing plants by March 2019, including a 250,000-square-foot mass timber plant in Spokane, Washington. The factory, according to the company, should produce 4.6 million cubic feet of cross-laminated timber per year, while its other plants will produce standard wood panels and trusses.
More favorable building codes are bolstering the mass timber industry, although it has a few hills to climb before it gains industry-wide acceptance, primarily because of the perception that wood structures are not as safe as those made from steel or concrete. The financial community seems to be on board, however. In the last three years, the young company, valued at $3 billion, had investors clamoring to buy in through an $865 million Series D funding round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund this year and into an April 2017 round for $130 million.
Katerra is also on the forefront of a productivity push, an effort made more critical by the skilled labor shortage. Offsite construction and prefabrication gives contractors the chance to accelerate their schedules by performing traditionally consecutive tasks in parallel with each other. For example, Gaston Electrical in Boston told Constriction Dive that it can reduce its labor needs by 50% by collaborating with other trades and by using prefabricating mechanical, engineering and plumbing (MEP) racks — 20- to 30-foot panels that are pre-fitted with ductwork, pipes and raceways — that are easy to connect once they're delivered to the jobsite.