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The Pre-Fab Skyscraper? Bay Area Housing Crisis Brings New Era for Cold-Formed Steel Framed Modular Homes

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Inside a nondescript warehouse in a nondescript industrial park, workers for RAD Urban are assembling the building blocks of a modern apartment building.

Piece by piece, along a factory line, workers erect walls, string electrical wires, fasten plumbing, hang drywall and paint until a bare 12-foot by 30-foot cold-formed steel framed chassis looks almost like a move-in ready apartment.

These almost-finished units will be delivered to an Oakland construction site, then fastened together into full apartments in a five-story complex. Advocates hope the project will also help fuel a renaissance for modular housing.

Much like Tesla, its neighbor in the Central Valley industrial park, RAD Urban is trying to revolutionize its industry.

“(We’re) really looking to fundamentally change the way we build,” said RAD Urban senior vice president Jason Laub. “We can solve that problem on the cost side.”

Proponents of pre-fabricated or modular housing point to studies showing factory-built apartments and buildings can cut construction costs by about 20 percent, and can be built in almost half the time. It’s emerging as a small, alternative attack on the housing crisis. RAD Urban and another startup, Factory OS in Vallejo, have set up factories to build modular housing for the Bay Area and beyond.

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