Sam Ruben is passionate (with a capital P) about sustainability. Sustainability is not just a moral principle for Sam – he believes that as a core value it can improve the bottom line, and increase the brand value of any company. Today, he is Chief Sustainability Officer and co-founder of Mighty Buildings, a company that has leveraged rapidly evolving technologies in 3D-printing, robotics and automation for the construction industry, specifically to create affordable and sustainable homes.
Mighty Buildings developed a breakthrough material that can be printed into any shape, a series of ADUs with a growing order list, and a house kit of parts. They can 3D print a floor, walls and a ceiling that are fully set within 24 hours. Plus, it’s all up to code and UL-certified. Sam says, “We didn’t want to create a lot of hype or expectations we couldn’t meet, and we wanted to show that we’d done the work on the regulatory side.” This meant working with developers, planners and regulatory bodies from the start.
They started by touting market-ready, prefabricated ADUs. Their bigger goal is Zero Net Energy homes. And their process offers 95% lower labor hours, double the construction speed, and ten times less waste compared to conventional construction. And most of the construction process is automated. And Sam says their goal is to create a new way to build, and “at the scale necessary to really have an impact on the housing affordability crisis.”
Insights and Inspirations
- Sustainability in housing can be about how you build, or how the building uses and saves energy over time. Mighty Buildings is focused on both.
- Before they even ‘printed’ their first building, Mighty Buildings had to invent a new material that cured quickly. In a day.
- Sam and his team spent years in R & D stealth mode, working with code and certification partners long before unveiling their first building.
- Their BHAG is to create a distributed network of factories across the country, printing 3D houses in idle warehouse space, creating fabulous housing and jobs for everyone. Quickly.
Information and Links
- Sam is really excited for the launch of the ABC Collaborative, which promises to jumpstart the off-site construction industry in the U.S. (similar to what was done for the silicon chip industry in the 1990s).
- He also loves taking part in events/webinars by the Housing Innovation Alliance, which does an amazing job of fostering and elevating new ideas and insights that have potential to change the housing industry.
- And he spends a lot of time thinking about the idea of a Circular Economy – both the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and GreenBiz are great resources on this.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:14] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone. If you haven’t already, check out all of my podcasts at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co or you can find them at your favorite podcast station. You’ll find lot’s worth listening to, I’m sure.
Eve: [00:01:15]We’re going to point you back to one of our golden oldies today because it’s been an insanely popular podcast. If you missed it, here’s another chance to listen.
Eve: [00:01:21] Sam Ruben is passionate with a capital P, about sustainability. Sustainability is not just a moral principle for Sam. He believes that as a core value, it can improve the bottom line and increase the brand value of any company. And Sam is living this belief. Today he is Chief Sustainability Officer and Co-Founder of Mighty Buildings, a company that offers 100 percent digital prefabrication of its modern ADUs and kits. In the first three years of their existence, Mighty Buildings developed a breakthrough material that can be printed into any shape, a series of ADUs with a growing order list and a house kit of parts. Now deploying a Series B round of funding, their goal is to manufacture thousands of houses through the 3D printing material, in thousands of locations globally within the next 10 years, reducing waste and energy and helping to house people quickly, affordably and beautifully.
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Eve: [00:03:04] Hi, Sam, it’s really great to have you on my show.
Sam Ruben: [00:03:07] I really, really appreciate the opportunity.
Eve: [00:03:10] So I think you are thinking real estate to the nth degree with your company, Mighty Buildings, which is really such a great name for a company. So, I would love you to tell us what Mighty Buildings is all about.
Sam: [00:03:23] Yes, Mighty Buildings, we’re an Oakland based construction technology company that has a mission to create beautiful, affordable and sustainable housing using 3D printing and robotics. So, what we’ve done is we’ve developed a unique material and unique printing process. That’s, so we’re not using cement. We’ve developed a material, it’s called Light Stone. So, it’s essentially a synthetic stone, but we don’t have siliceous. We don’t have to worry about those health impacts. And what we’ve done is we figured out how to print it into curves as well as traditional forms and allow, which allows us to print not only the floors and the walls, but also the roof of homes. And so we’re initially delivering accessory dwelling units directly to homeowners and recently announced our first project which is going to be a community of 3D printed zero-net energy homes in Rancho Mirage.
Eve: [00:04:06] Oh, wow. So then what problems are you hoping to solve with Mighty Buildings?
Sam: [00:04:12] Yeah. So, even though we’re bringing 3D printing and robotics into it, our goal isn’t to replace labor. What we’re really trying to solve is the fact that we just don’t have enough skilled labor to build all the housing we need. And in 2008, most of the skilled contractors left the industry. Those that stayed or came back tended to be older. They’re retiring and they’re not being replaced. For every five skilled GCs that are leaving the industry right now, we’re seeing one lower skilled worker entering.
Eve: [00:04:36] Oh, really?
Sam: [00:04:36] Yeah, it’s pretty, pretty fascinating. I was talking to a professor at the University of Denver, Burns School of Construction Management, and he was saying there’s something like 40,0000 construction jobs that are open in America right now that no one’s taking.
Eve: [00:04:49] You know, years ago I was hearing this just about stonemasons that was a really dying trade. But I didn’t realize it had now crept into everything.
Sam: [00:04:59] Yeah, that’s what we’re seeing. I mean, it’s particularly acute here in California, but we’re starting to see it in other places in the country as well. And at the same time as we have this huge housing crisis, I mean, we need globally, we need billions of houses. I mean, in California alone, we need like two and a half million just to get on par with the rest of the country in terms of per capita housing, not even to actually close that affordability gap. And at the same time, the construction of buildings accounts for 11 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions globally. And the building energy use phase is another 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, which means that if we’re going to solve this housing crisis and we’re building billions of new units, we really have to do so in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the climate crisis, which along with the fact that we need a better way to build in order to get all the units out there in the first place means we need a better way to build to make sure we do so in a way that doesn’t exacerbate that climate crisis and frankly, leave us off worse off than we would be if we hadn’t built all that housing.
Eve: [00:05:53] Wow. So you’ve had a background in sustainability, I see.
Sam: [00:05:57] Indeed.
Eve: [00:05:57] Yeah. How did you, how did you arrive at, like, this sustainable building solution as something that you wanted to pursue?
Sam: [00:06:06] Yeah. So, it’s been a fascinating journey. Sustainability is something that’s just kind of always been a part of my life. I was really lucky where I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had curb-side recycling as basically going, I don’t remember not ever not having curb-side recycling. So, it’s kind of all those things that just was always a part of my day to day. My mom would always compost and we were always very, very eco-friendly in my house. And then obviously the social aspect of sustainability was very important as well, because social justice was something that was very important to my family and the kind of the ideas of equity and diversity and inclusion were which kind of baked into how I was raised. And so, after college and my political science and economics college, thought I was going to be a lawyer. Ended up working in interfaith peace building for a number of years. Once I moved out to California here in San Francisco. And then attended Presidio Graduate School, because one day I realized maybe I didn’t actually want to be a lawyer and knew about Presidio Graduate School, which is this amazing program that offers both an MBA, so Masters of Business Administration, as well as an MPA, a Masters of Public Administration, and it’s one of the first programs in the world to focus the entire curriculum around sustainability and systems thinking. And so I was lucky enough to get to go there, decided to pursue the dual degree, so get both the MBA and the MPA, because coming from the civil society sector, it was really clear to me that too often public, private and civil society are trying to solve the same problems, but they end up fighting over resources and doing so because they don’t understand each other and they don’t necessarily realize that they’re trying to solve the same problems. And so that was one of the reasons that I did do the dual degree and then found myself doing sustainability coaching and in terms of 3D printing. And that’s kind of where it becomes obvious just how big a nerd I am. I’ve been in love with 3D printing ever since I realized that Star Trek replicators were just atomic level 3D printing with energy modulation. So, like, this is what I like. So, 3D printing is something I’ve been passionate about like I’ve always loved the idea and love the potential of it. And so in grad school for my MBA Capstone, me and my team developed a business model to take clean, virgin, uncontaminated plastic hospital waste and turn it into 3D printer filament.
Eve: [00:08:17] Interesting.
Sam: [00:08:18] And so it’s an area we’ve been working on. And then after grad school ended up doing sustainability coaching and consulting, helping organizations optimize their impacts as well as their bottom line, largely looking at building systems. So, looking at the envelope. Heating and cooling, lighting. But even little things like what’s it mean to move garbage can 10 feet? What’s the impact on the waste generated there? And then modeling out both the sustainability impacts in terms of impacts on wastewater, energy, transportation. But then also what is the, what are the bottom-line impacts? What are the operational efficiency improvements available? And really to the people I was working with in position to make the business case to their CEO suites or their organizational leadership to implement the sustainability changes and then connect with my co-founders who had originally met each other in Singapore, where the government owns all the housing, and they completely rebuild their housing stock every 20 or 30 years with the latest and greatest in technology. And then they were coming here and saying it’s like, why are you still building using technology that’s 100 or 200 years old, just didn’t didn’t make sense to them. And so, they had previously come up with a 3D printing concept. That was the basis for the technology we use today. And they shared the vision with me and it just made sense. It really clicked like they had the fact that we need a better way to build both the close the housing gap, but also to address the sustainability impacts of that housing, which was really, really clear to me and something that I felt passionate about. It made it easy to say yes and join the team.
Eve: [00:09:42] It’s really fascinating to me how, you know, all these interests and people sort of collide to make the perfect storm really. It’s pretty interesting.
Sam: [00:09:52] Yeah, yeah and I was lucky because, like, they had worked with a classmate of mine who had been working at Indiegogo when they were doing some crowdfunding previously and so that’s how we connected, is they reached out to her. She posted something on one of our Facebook alumni groups, and I think I might have even recommended a former classmate would advise my Capstone team. But at the time he had I taken a job with a Hitachi Smart City Program. So, I ended up meeting with our CEO, Slava, and just, yeah, we hit it off, fell in love with the idea. And the rest is, as they say, history. I mean, and that was just about four years ago. They’ll be four years ago in a couple months.
Eve: [00:10:25] Yeah. It sounds like you’re a pretty young company. But what types of buildings are you printing? Like, how far have you come with this?
Sam: [00:10:33] Yeah. So initially what we’re delivering are accessory dwelling units, so more commonly known as like granny, in-law units or granny flats or just kind of the idea of a backyard, small backyard apartment. And the reason we chose that as our initial market is that the state of California has passed a series of series of legislation going back to 2016. So went into effect beginning in 2017.
Eve: [00:10:54] Yeah.
Sam: [00:10:55] Yeah. So yeah. And so I think I also made it much easier to promote them, but it also because of the size of ADUs, they’re too small for most builders and developers to really be able to afford to build because of the overhead. And so it may not only made a great place for us to step into a new growing market, giving us a chance to demonstrate the viability of our technology while we continue to build out our certification and roadmap, but also meant that we weren’t competing with the builders and developers who we’ve always seen as our customers, because at the end day, our goal is to be a tool for industry and essentially provide production as a service, as a platform, and so do that. And that’s why we’re really excited about this project down in Rancho Mirage, the Palari Villas that we’re doing with the Palari Group, because that’s our first foray into that model of delivering units at scale, because that’s really where we start to see impact. And so with those, we’re doing single family homes plus ADUs, and then we have a new fibre reinforced version of our material that we’re working on and taking to certification this year with the hope of being able to move into a low rise multistorey, hopefully by the end of next year.
Eve: [00:11:55] It’s not just buildings. It’s a material that you’ve developed.
Sam: [00:12:00] Correct.
Eve: [00:12:01] Absolutely critical to…
Sam: [00:12:02] Exactly. Yeah. And it’s a non-cement material which has, and we use light to cure it. So, what that means is that it cures quickly enough that it can support its own weight, which is what opens up the ability to do bring organic forms and shapes into the printing process to print the roof as well as the floors and the walls, but not so quickly that we don’t get full cohesion between the layers. So that means that at the end of the day, we end up with the monolithic object. And so, the material itself, I’m sure many of your listeners are familiar with Corian by Dupont. Yeah. Which has been used as countertops and claddings and things since 60s. So, it’s the same class of materials insofar as it’s a thermostat composite. But our material is unique in that we’ve developed a manufacturing process that allows us to put it into a printable form and we’ve also designed it and engineered it to be a higher performance. So, like, for example, Corian, I think generally has a Class B flame spread rating. Ours has a class A flame spread rating. And then we’ve also developed the ability to move it into structural aspects of the build as well.
Eve: [00:12:58] Interesting. So, what do your buildings look like? How different are they to stick built buildings?
Sam: [00:13:08] Yeah, so we’ve we intentionally decided to not go really crazy with the the design in terms of highlighting the 3D printing. So the units we’re delivering currently are more or less, looks like modern boxes, but they have a curved end, which kind of hints at the possibilities. And then, so those are what we call our Mighty Mods. So our studio, our studio one- and two-bedroom accessory dwelling units that we’re currently delivering. And then our next product line, which is based off of our Mighty Kit System, which is essentially a serious kit home, but made with 3D printed components.
Eve: [00:13:41] That’s the one I want to get.
Sam: [00:13:41] Yeah, and that’s what the Palari Project is. And so, the first product line that we developed with that is called the Mighty House Line. And those were designed with EYRC Architects, which is one of the nation’s leading modern design firms. So those have a real modern feel to them. Part of why Coachella Valley was a perfect location for the first deployment at scale. It’s kind of the heart of modernism. And so it was really, really great to have a chance to have one of our big projects right there.
Eve: [00:14:05] So I have to talk about building codes then, because…
Sam: [00:14:11] Indeed.
Eve: [00:14:11] That must be pretty horrendous trying to convince your local building department that a little building like this, using this technology complies with all regulations.
Sam: [00:14:23] Yeah, no, great question. And obviously, because we’re bringing something unique into the space, it’s been really, really important to us from the beginning that we are addressing the regulatory and safety side of things. Because, I mean, as you as you’re well aware, building codes are written in blood. They exist because things went wrong, and people died. And like I mean, that’s the sad truth about it. And so that’s why we have so much respect for them. And that’s also part of why we stayed in stealth mode for the first three years of our existence and didn’t really start to talk about what we were doing until last August. Was that we wanted to take the time to really be working on the regulatory side. And so we’ve been partnering with UL, Underwriters Laboratories, and the reason we chose UL as our evaluation and certification partner instead of the International Code Council or Atmo or Airtech or some of these other evaluation services that are out there, is that UL not only has over 100 years of building life safety experience, they also have some of the world’s leading additive manufacturing experts, which means that they’re uniquely situated to really understand our technology in order to see what does it look like to demonstrate code compliance. And so, what’s come out of that process is a new standard, which is the world’s first standard for 3D printed construction. UL 3401. That’s also…
Eve: [00:15:32] UL 3401?
Sam: [00:15:34] Correct? Yeah. UL 3401. I believe the full title is Outline of Investigation for 3D Printed Construction. And what’s really, really exciting is that that has since been used as the basis for Appendix A.W. in the 2021 International Residential Code update that will go into effect next year. So that means we’ve actually helped get 3D printing into the building code in actually pretty much less than three years. And so with the new update, once that’s published, jurisdictions will be able to take that appendix and plug it into their code because it is an adoptable appendix. And even those that don’t formally adopt it will have that opportunity to look to it for guidance as we start seeing more and more 3D printed homes coming to the market.
Eve: [00:16:13] So does that mean that the tiny little town, where I have a little cottage, that I like to stay at from time to time, that has very, very old-fashioned conservative building codes, that I might actually be able to buy a piece of land and put one of your 3D printed buildings in there next year sometime?
Sam: [00:16:31] Yeah, well, and potentially you could even do it now, because one of the cool things is that in the meantime, we’re able to operate under the alternative means and methods portion of the code, which allows you to build pretty much anything in any way as long as a building official approves it. And so as long as you’re able to demonstrate and provide all the information necessary for them to feel confident that it will do will have the safety and compliance. And so in, that’s what we’ve been doing there is actually working with the state of California through their Housing and Community Development’s Factory Built Housing Program, which allows us to certify our units and effectively get a building permit from the state. So, we work with a third-party design approval agency that’s certified by the state and they do the all the code reviews for all of our units. So that means we get to work with a single design approval agency instead of each local AHJ. And then we have in factory inspections by another third party that’s certified by the state as a quality assurance agency. And so that basically takes care of what would be inspections that would normally happen on site but can’t because we’re building in a factory. So that means when we get to the local municipality, it’s really about getting the permits for the site work, foundation, utilities, all that, as well as going through the plant check for zoning purposes.
Eve: [00:17:40] Interesting. So are you, the kit of parts that you’ve developed, are you planning to ship that nationally?
Sam: [00:17:48] So, yeah. So, what we’re actually planning on doing is having a distributed network of factories because for a lot of reasons. One, it does not make sense to ship California construction costs out of the state because we have one of the highest cost structures of anywhere in the world. Additionally, we want to make sure that we’re not only providing housing for market, but we want to be creating jobs for that market. So, we’re identifying areas where we have high demand, where we have builders and developers we can partner with and then deploying these, our factories in existing warehouse space near where the demand is. So that’s one of the really cool things about using 3D printing and robotics, is out of 50000 square feet, we can currently produce 300 units a year, about 360,000 square feet out of that 50,000 square feet of production. And where we’re going is to be able to generate a thousand units or 1.2 million square feet out of that same 50,000 square feet.
Eve: [00:18:37] Wow.
Sam: [00:18:37] So we have the ability to set up in either warehouse space, like where we are here in Oakland. It’s an old Pete’s Coffee warehouse. And so rather than needing to build hundreds of thousands or a million square feet facilities that are far away from where that your labor and demand centers are. And so not only reduced logistic costs, but also reduces the carbon cost of that transportation.
Eve: [00:18:59] That’s really interesting. So, are you building, are you printing building parts as well or is it complete buildings?
Sam: [00:19:10] Yes. So, we have the ability to do fully printed shelves. And if people go to our YouTube channel to see one of our studios that we have fully printed, but most of the ones where we’re delivering currently are actually a hybrid. So they have a 3D printed curved wall combined with the traditional steel frame box. And the reason for that is that, as we’ve noted, the building industry is understandably ,and the building officials are understandably, conservative. Because of the nature of the, of the code being written in blood. And so for us, we’ve been moving incrementally to make it as easy as possible to get that a code approval at every step of the way while we continue to expand out the certification and testing portfolio, which takes time because many of these tests have backlogs as long as six months or more. And so, what we’ve also done is that, so, and those ones we’re currently delivering as volumetric models. So those guys are completed, fully finished modules with all the finishing, including appliances and everything, when those arrive on site and so laid on the foundation and placed in a matter of a day, then generally, depending on how we’re able to create the subs for the finishing work, ends up being about a week or so until they’re completely installed. And so, yeah, so we can go from a blank slate to a fully finished in under a month with our Mods. With the kit, it’s going to be a little more, a little more involved on site because it is arriving and shipping containers as panels and as components. But again, with everything you need to fully finish the unit. And so with that, it’ll take a couple, a few weeks to stand up, but it’ll still be faster than traditional onsite construction and less disruptive.
Eve: [00:20:39] Wow. OK, so what does the process look like for printing? Let’s say, in ADU from design to move in.
Sam: [00:20:48] Yeah. So currently we’re offering as kind of a set number of designs that we have. So we can obviously take advantage of prefabrication in which having some limited customization is going to look…
Eve: [00:21:02] Like the old-fashioned Sears blueprints. Right?
Sam: [00:21:06] For where we are now. Yes. Where we’re going as a part of our kit system, we’ve already developed a Revit library for our panels to make it easy for us to create custom floor plans for builders and developers, because obviously with volume, it’s much easier to do customization. But where we’re going is to continue to build that out, to allow third party designers to work directly with our technology and so be able to bring in those third-party designs and really unlock customization at the scale of a single unit and small batches. Because for us, we don’t need to change the floor or rearrange our production system when we go from one design to another. It’s literally just a matter of changing the file in the computer.
Eve: [00:21:45] Wow.
Sam: [00:21:45] So that’s one of the really exciting things. And so particularly when we get to multi-story, really excited about the opportunities that creates for instituting late stage design changes because those always come up, but to do so in a way with minimal additional marginal cost.
Eve: [00:22:00] So what’s the end goal date for getting rid of the hybrid and going fully 3D on these buildings?
Sam: [00:22:10] Yeah, so we’re looking to potentially by next year with our new fiber reinforced material, which the goal is to allow that to remove the structural steel that we’re currently using as a kind of safety buffer. Because in truth, units are currently designed to not need the scale, but we utilize it again just to make sure that we’re have that safety buffer because it is still new technology. And even though all the testing shows there shouldn’t be any issues, we really don’t want to take any chances.
Eve: [00:22:34] Sure, sure. So where are you printing now? You said you had 50,000 square feet.
Sam: [00:22:40] Yeah. So, it’s so the whole facility, here in Oakland is about 79,000 square feet. Of that, 50,000 is production floor and the rest is our offices and material storage.
Eve: [00:22:49] You came out of stealth mode last year. How many people on your team?
Sam: [00:22:55] Yeah. So we, we have a pretty large team and we, we just closed our series B, so we’re in the process of expanding our team, but we’ve got about 30 people here in Oakland and then we’ve actually got about over one hundred people at our research and development facility in Moscow. So that’s kind of been one of our one of the secrets to our how fast we’ve been able to move and how fast we’ve been able to develop this technology is that we have overseas research. It was originally in Siberia, in a city called Tomsk, which is kind of like the Boston of Russia. Which is, it’s because it’s got a similar number of students per capita to Boston and three of the top 10 universities in the country. And the reason we have that is that all three of my co-founders are originally from Russia, though they all connected in Singapore. And then I connected with them here. And we are headquartered here in Oakland. We are a U.S. company. We are, this is our target market. But having that research and development there allows us to have a much larger team doing some amazing work than we could if we had that R&D based here in the U.S., particularly here in the Bay Area.
Eve: [00:23:53] Yes, that’s a pretty interesting model and example of partnership between Russia and the U.S.
Sam: [00:24:02] Yeah, well, I mean, it really, it really speaks to the fact that there are good people with good ideas everywhere.
Eve: [00:24:09] Yeah.
Sam: [00:24:10] And I mean, obviously there is always we’re always paying attention to what’s happening at the global level between the governments. But that’s something you do anyway when you’re looking at supply chain concerns. So it’s one of those things that obviously we’re paying attention to see how it might potentially impact us. But thus far, we really haven’t seen any impacts. And the biggest have been just visas. So that’s been probably the biggest impact and the some of the difficulties there. But no, no real issues in that regard.
Eve: [00:24:35] So you’ve got a Series B round. What are your plans for scale?
Sam: [00:24:39] Yeah.
Eve: [00:24:40] What’s your big hairy goal? Audacious goal?
Sam: [00:24:43] Well, our audacious goal is to hopefully within 10 years, to have mighty factories sprout across the globe. Starting here in the U.S. and then moving into other countries. We are of interest from the Middle East, Europe, Southeast Asia. And so having these across the globe, generating each generating a thousand or more units every year. So across Mighty Buildings, helping support some of the biggest builders in the world to build more with their existing labor, but to do so in a way that provides zero-net energy homes. So, minimizing the carbon impacts of the energy use phase, but also zero waste construction. So really eliminating that three to five pounds per square foot that goes to landfill and traditional build. And we’ve also committed to being carbon neutral by 2028, 22 years ahead of the broader industry with the secondary goal of achieving carbon negativity by 2040. So that’s something that we’re really, really excited about. And we’ve already identified potential savings along the way there and are continuing to work on that. So ,when we’re thinking about our how are units, we’re not just thinking about from when we build it to install it, we’re actually thinking 50, 100 years ahead to when it comes to end of life, what’s and what’s that going to look like? So, we already have the ability to mill the units up and reuse them as filler in new material. But we’re also looking at opportunities for redeveloping our formulations to unlock abilities to have a truly circular production system where we’re able to completely reuse and break down the components so that we can fully avoided landfill, because it’s so important to us that we’re doing everything we can to minimize and mitigate the impacts of new buildings on climate. Because that’s such a such a crucial thing and because it can’t be any either or. It really has to be a both hand with any solution that we’re looking at as a society.
Eve: [00:26:25] So are you planning your own Mighty Building to live in?
Sam: [00:26:28] Eventually. Eventually, if I can never afford to own property in California. No, actually. Yeah, there’s, my mother recently passed, and so my brother, cousin and I now share some property in western Massachusetts that we’re looking at potentially putting a unit on.
Eve: [00:26:46] Oh, fun. Fun. So, one final question for you, because this has been fascinating. I’m just wondering if there are any other current trends or innovations in real estate development or construction that you think are really important for the future, beyond what you’re doing with Mighty Buildings?
Sam: [00:27:03] Yeah, well, as I’ve spoken to, I mean, I think it’s imperative that we as a society figure out how to. So there’s a couple areas. One is obviously the sustainability of the structures. And honestly, I’d like to go back past sustainability into resilience and regeneration, because that’s really where the conversation needs to be, is how do we make housing units that are going to be resilient to the changes that are already coming down the pipeline while also being a part of the solution in terms of regenerating that ecosystem. Whether that’s through carbon sequestration built into the units or other opportunities. So that’s one huge area, because whether it’s us or anyone else, we need to build all those units. But we have to we have to be thinking about the impacts on the climate crisis when we’re doing so, or else we’re going to be in a lot of even more trouble than we are. Additionally, looking at, what does it mean to, like, and this is obviously a broader societal issue that comes up whenever we talk about automation and robotics, which is, how do we as a society want to embrace the potential benefits of these of automation and technology? And so there’s that. It’s been great seeing some of the work happening around like universal basic income and some of these other models that began to decouple work from worth. Because, I mean, Buckminster Fuller back in the 1950s was talking about how we had technology such that one person could do the job 10,000. We should be freeing those other 9,999 to do the things that further humanity. And that’s even more true today with the advances we’ve seen. So, there’s huge opportunity as a society for us to be thinking about what does it mean to embrace technology in a way that allows us to solve some of these really, really big problems while also taking into account the potential negative consequences? Because technology is neither good nor bad. It’s it comes down to how do we as a society choose to use it? So that’s another area. And then more broadly, I’m really excited about what we’re seeing in terms of shifts in prefabrication and off-site construction here in the United States. You may or may not be aware about the new Advanced Building Construction Collaborative. That’s going to be kicked off shortly. But the Department of Energy, Rocky Mountain Institute and some others are convening this amazing effort. That’s essentially a parallel to what was done in the 1990s for the silicon wafer chips for the semiconductor industry and microchips where the Department of Energy basically funded, put a lot of money into jumpstarting the industry in the face of competition from Taiwan and other places and kept the U.S. as a leader there. And they’re looking to do the same thing for off-site construction, because not only are we seeing some amazing buildings being built with really great modules from Poland and China, but as we’ve seen with the current pandemic and some of these issues in global trade, we’re really running into issues with getting those units here and getting, having global trade happening the way we used to. So it’s more imperative than ever that we’re really identifying ways that we can unlock that capacity here in the United States, to be able to generate all those homes. Because that also is going to have a huge impact on the sustainability of that construction in terms of the carbon associated with the transport. So I’d say those are those three areas or three big ones I’m really excited about and conversations that are ongoing, but that we need more and more people thinking about and engaging with, I think, because there’s so many good ideas out there and the problems are so big that I don’t think there’s any one one solution that’s really going to be able to solve it for everyone.
Eve: [00:30:13] No, I think that’s true. I think this, we’ve all got to chip away in lots of different ways. Well, thank you very much for the conversation. I can hear the excitement in your voice. And I’m incredibly excited now too. I’m going to go to your website and check out that little house that’s a kit of parts.
Sam: [00:30:27] Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for the opportunity and really, really enjoyed the conversation. You had some great questions. And it was a pleasure,
Eve: [00:30:36] I’m really looking forward to see where you go. It’s a big goal. Thank you.
Sam: [00:30:41] Oh, thank you. Well, the best ones don’t have to be audacious or else we’re not, we don’t get the change we need.
Eve: [00:30:47] That’s right.
Eve: [00:31:02] That was Sam Ruben of Mighty Buildings. Sam pivoted his life and career into sustainability in a very big way. He is making all bets on the need for the world to think differently and to build differently. The melding of housing that is built quickly to fill of dire need and housing that is built through a brand-new process that reduces waste and energy are a perfect place for Sam to be. We’ll be hearing more about Sam and Mighty Buildings, I’m sure.
You can find out more about this episode, or others you might have missed, on the show notes page at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music. And thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Images courtesy of Sam Ruben/Mighty Buildings.