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Amazon invests in prefab startup focused on smart home tech

Could this investment in California-based Plant Prefab be a new avenue for Alexa expansion?

A Plant Prefab home in Santa Monica, California.
Plant Prefab

Amazon has made its first foray in prefab construction, investing in a company known for sustainable construction and smart home technology.

Today’s announcement of Amazon’s investment in Plant Prefab, a startup based in Rialto, California, comes on the heels of the company’s announcement of a new line of Alexa-enabled smart home devices, suggesting a potential new avenue of smart home development, experimentation, and expansion.

Amazon already has a deal with Lennar, the nation’s largest homebuilder, to pre-install Alexa in all the company’s new homes.

While Amazon has plenty of construction needs, between current expansion in Seattle, future construction of its HQ2, as well as continued expansion in warehouse and logistics space, one of its primary focuses has been getting Alexa, its smart assistant, in more homes. Plant Prefab CEO Steve Glenn told Curbed he wasn’t able to discuss any specific plans, the press release announcing the deal focused on smart home technology.

Plant Prefab’s factory in Rialto, California.
Plant Prefab

“Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands,” said Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, in a statement. “Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing. We’re thrilled to support them as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”

Glenn said the new $6.7 million Series A funding round, which also includes investments from Obvious Ventures and other private investors, will support expansion and talent acquisition for the company, including senior hires and new factories operating on the company’s patented Plant Building System. The company current operates out of a 62,000-square-foot facility in Rialto.

Plant Prefab claims to be the first home factory in the nation focused on sustainable construction, materials, processes and operations, and many of its homes are LEED certified. Plant Prefab says its approach reduces construction time by 50 percent and cost by 10-25 percent in major cities. The company has partnered with some of the industry’s leading architects and designers, including Ray Kappe, Kieran Timberlake, and Yves Behar.

The Plant Prefab factory in Rialto, California
Plant Prefab

In 2016, Plant Prefab was spun out of LivingHomes, a design and development company that designed and built dozens of award-winning prefabricated homes and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), including the nation’s first LEED Platinum home.

The company believes factory-built homes can address the challenge of affordability with online technology, new building systems, and automation.

“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,” says Glenn in a statement.