Many startups are currently working on the design of modular homes. Among the most interesting is Blanket, a seven-year-old Los Angeles-based company that says it manufactures fully complete wall, floor and roof panels at its factory, then haul them on a standard truck and assemble them on site, without a crane.
The materials used are light steel for the building frame and aluminum for the ceilings. The panels are made from a rubber composite because, as founder and CEO Alexis Xavier Rivas explains, “Drywall is not designed for manufacturing or transportation, it is too fragile.
Obviously, a lot of thought has gone into the way these buildings are designed. For example, the company installs all plumbing and electrical wiring to the ceiling, so if a homeowner wants to install a new wire or pipe, all they have to do is blow up the ceiling to do so.
It sounds odd, but it’s a lot less odd than sawing a series of holes in a wall, then patching them up and repainting them to achieve the same result. (It also requires less help from the kind of craftsmen like plumbers and electricians who are in short supply these days.)
Other materials used include real wood and wood composites for floors and exteriors, as well as solid surface countertops and non-porous bathroom floors, which means they are more hygienic, which matters more and more to homeowners as the world emerges from a pandemic.
How the materials fit together is naturally even more crucial, given that with Cover a lot of the focus – and the promise – is on both quick assembly and customization.
According to Rivas, the process works as follows: A client works with the company to create a design. Currently, this design is limited to one-story units of 1,200 square feet or less, but which take into account factors such as window placement to minimize energy waste. (Rivas also notes here that the glass, made by Cover, is LEED certified and its homes are airtight, which significantly improves their energy efficiency.)
Cover then takes the agreed-upon design, at a price that’s set in advance and includes permit fees, municipal fees, foundation fees, and the house itself – think $ 200,000 for a 400-foot studio. squares; $ 250,000 for a one bedroom unit of 600 square feet; and up to $ 500,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,200-foot unit – and he gets to work designing the rooms.
Surprisingly enough, he says that once the foundations are complete, the building can be constructed and installed within 30 days, compared to the 120 days he promised customers.
It also offers 100% money back guarantee if it can’t get the permits required, as well as a lifetime structural warranty and a one-year warranty for everything else.
These buildings “are not going to rot,” says Rivas. “They are not going to be eaten by termites.” If a customer needs new air filters, on the other hand, “we’ll change them.”
Rivas, who grew up in Toronto, studied architecture in college and briefly revolved around a number of architectural firms before founding Cover, is proud to be able to attract engineers from SpaceX and Tesla to the mission, and at various points during a conversation earlier this week, compared Cover’s processes to those of the automaker.
He’s apparently not the only one who sees similarities. The company announces today that it has raised $ 60 million in Series B funding led by Gigafund, an investment firm founded by two former Founders Fund investors who bet heavily on SpaceX.
Valor Equity Partners and Founders Fund, both of whom are also early investors in SpaceX and Tesla, as well as many other notable backers including General Catalyst, Lennar, Fifty Years, AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, founder of Lowercase Capital Chris Sacca, Bruce Richards, CEO of Marathon Asset Management and Arash Ferdowsi, co-founder of Dropbox, among others.
To be sure, there is no shortage of demand for what Cover is building, given the nationwide shortage of housing – and construction -. In fact, when asked about Cover’s sales team, Rivas said there is so much inbound interest that only “a third of a person’s time is spent on sales” right now.
As for what people are ordering, Rivas says most of the company’s clients have purchased homes to accommodate either of the families moving in (an aging parent, a child returning from college) ; create a home office outside of their home; or establish a way to increase rental income.
Yet beyond the 20 or so back houses it has already built, the company – which has now raised $ 75 million in total – has every intention of starting to build larger multi-story homes, as well. as multi-family units.
This mainly boils down to using more panels, says Rivas, which the company will be able to produce from the 100,000 square foot plant it is moving into from the 25,000 square foot warehouse it currently operates. . (That’s where some of that $ 60 million is headed.)
Indeed, he says, if all goes according to plan, very soon even existing customers will be able to easily expand homes they have already purchased using the Cover app. It will be a breeze, according to his story.
“You’ll go to the app, click on the room you want to add, then schedule it, pay online, and complete your renovation in two to three days.
This is the kind of curtain raiser that Elon Musk is known for. Now let’s see if Cover can pull it off.