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BotBuilt: Automating Framing to Make Sustainable and Affordable Housing for All

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By: Headliners News / January 2, 2024

In the pursuit of revolutionizing the homebuilding industry, BotBuilt has emerged as a beacon of innovation, striving to make the dream of affordable and sustainable housing a reality. Founded in 2020 by Brent Wadas, Colin Devine, and robotics engineer Barrett Ames, the startup envisions a future where technology plays a pivotal role in not only lowering the cost of home construction but also mitigating its negative environmental impacts.

As the National Association of Realtors reports a significant surge in the median household income for homebuyers, reaching $107,000 this year from $88,000 the previous year, the scarcity of available homes in the U.S. poses a challenge that shows no signs of abating. While some might view the escalating prices and dwindling supply as potential drivers towards environmentally friendly alternatives, BotBuilt aims to address the housing dilemma by leveraging technology.

Ames, drawing inspiration from personal experience, recounts his time as a graduate student at Duke, where he and his wife took on a fixer-upper near the college campus. The challenges and insights gained during the renovation process fueled the co-founders’ determination to confront the housing shortage issue. Ames notes, “The housing industry is facing a huge housing shortage, and builders know they have to continue to build as many homes as possible to make up for years of underbuilding.”

BotBuilt’s innovative approach focuses on a specific facet of the homebuilding process—framing. The company’s robotic system, costing approximately $1 per hour to operate, aspires to transform the framing step into an efficient and cost-effective endeavor. By automating the assembly of panels for walls, floor trusses, and roof trusses, BotBuilt’s system can be reprogrammed swiftly to accommodate diverse frame designs, offering a flexibility that distinguishes it from previous attempts at automation in construction.

Ames theorizes that by automating framing, the pace of homebuilding can be significantly accelerated, addressing the prevailing challenges of time and cost. Traditionally, house framing costs between $7 to $16 per square foot, with factors like weather and labor shortages contributing to delays. With BotBuilt’s system, Ames envisions a transformative impact on the industry, stating, “The vast majority of … framing components are built by people using manual methods … BotBuilt empowers builders by helping them increase both their volume and margin by leveraging plentiful, high-quality and affordable robotic labor.”

While acknowledging competition from rivals in the robotics homebuilding space, such as Randek, Weinmann, House of Design, Diamond Age, and Mighty Homes, BotBuilt is making steady progress. With nine homes built and revenue hovering around $75,000, the startup anticipates a significant ramp-up in 2024. The plan includes shipping trusses built by its robotics while scaling up general operations.

To fuel its ambitious growth plans, BotBuilt has successfully secured $12.4 million in seed funding. Notable investors include Ambassador Supply, Y Combinator, Owens Corning, and Shadow Ventures. This infusion of capital, which values BotBuilt at $35 million post-money, is earmarked for expanding the team from 13 to approximately 20 members, solidifying the company’s presence in Durham, North Carolina, and driving its mission to revolutionize homebuilding through innovative and automated solutions.

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