How code could make multifamily construction more predictable

Social Construct aims to break down multifamily development into standardized parts. Just don't call it modular housing.

TRD New York /
Jul.July 23, 2020 02:00 PM

When first looking to raise funds for their construction-tech startup in 2017, Ben Huh and Michael Yarne steered clear of investors from the industry they were hoping to shake up. Instead, the founders of Social Construct went the traditional venture route, believing that outsider money would let them be bolder.

“They [venture capitalists] don’t get worried when you quack or when you squeal or when you fly,” said Huh, CEO of the firm and the former head of meme empire I Can Has Cheezburger? “They’re like, ‘Well, should you be doing that? I don’t know.'”

Huh and Yarne caught up with The Real Deal’s Hiten Samtani for an extended conversation about their company and what they hope to do for multifamily construction: make it cheaper, faster, and more predictable, akin to an assembly line.

“We go in and say, ‘Okay, let’s eliminate 99 percent of the variation that has zero value,'” Huh said. “What would that system look like? Can we make a riser that goes straight up and down in a stud bay?”

The reason construction jobs are so expensive, according to Yarne, is that subcontractors price uncertainty into their labor estimates given that a job site is such an unpredictable, messy environment. Making it more predictable through technology, he argued, could provide some cost relief to developers, and make an opaque business a lot more accessible.

To read an extended version of this conversation, subscribers can click here.

For more of The REInterview, a series of in-depth conversations with real estate leaders and newsmakers hosted by Hiten Samtani, click here.


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