Sam Ruben, Mighty Buildings Co-Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the company's latest funding round.
ADAM SHAPIRO: We a lot about the price of lumber and what's going on with housing because there is a shortage of housing for people to buy. But one of the ways to solve that problem is 3D printing of houses. And we actually brought into the stream several months ago Mighty Buildings. We're bringing them back because they've now closed another funding round. And to date, about $100 million has been raised to get this operation not only up and running, but full speed ahead.
We bring in right now co-founder and chief sustainability officer Sam Ruben. And congratulations on the most recent funding round. But I want to direct people to the website at Mighty Buildings because the buildings are really good-looking. They look really cool, not what you would expect from 3D printing. So tell us where are you starting to see demand? Because you had already started putting some up.
SAM RUBEN: Correct, yeah. So we've been delivering accessory dwelling units at backyard apartments since 2020 across California, as far south as San Diego with most of them here in the Bay Area. And now with this new funding round, we're also moving forward with our new Mighty Kit system, which we'll be deploying into single family homes, as well as accessory dwelling units, including the world's first zero net energy 3D printing community in Southern California.
Additionally, this funding is going to really help us accelerate our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2028, so 22 years ahead of the broader industry, as well as helping us move into multistory. Initially, with two to three-story single family homes, three-story townhouses, but eventually moving into low rise apartment buildings as well to help address vertical density.
EMILY MCCORMICK: Sam, this is Emily. How does the cost to you guys and the time to create 3D-printed homes compare to a traditional home construction?
SAM RUBEN: Yeah, so we're generally able to provide about 15% to 40% savings against stick built, depending on the complexity of the site and other factors. Additionally, in terms of timing, we're able to move much more quickly. With our Mighty Mods, such as the studio you're seeing here on the screen, we're actually able to deliver and install those in a single day. And so those are being produced while all the site work's happening. And so we're able to get those on the ground in about five to six weeks, all in, less if we're able to get all the subcontractors on site.
With the new Mighty Kit system, which is more like a Sears kit home for the 21st century, we're looking at a six to eight-week assembly time, which is still significantly faster than traditional stick-built on site.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Is lumber framing or steel framing involved in this? Or is it all contained within the 3D printing process?
SAM RUBEN: Great question. So because we're introducing such a novel technology material, we've been moving incrementally to make it as easy as possible for building officials to approve it at every step of the way. So the units we're delivering right now are a hybrid-- 3D printed curved wall with a steel frame box.
Our new ones, the Mighty Kit system is a 3D-printed exterior wall system that still incorporates some structural steel, but with the new fiber reinforced material that we're deploying for it. Our goal is to move away from the steel in the coming years, as building officials get more and more comfortable with what we're doing and as we continue to build out our certification portfolio.
EMILY MCCORMICK: I'm wondering, too, for a homeowner who perhaps purchases one of these Mighty buildings, let's say down the line, they decide to actually sell one of these. And a new buyer comes in, perhaps wants to renovate. Is there a possibility for that to actually happen? Or are they sort of, once they're built, it's a little bit more difficult to add on to the structures?
SAM RUBEN: Yeah, so by law, it needs to be able to be renovated. So we have designed it-- and that's kind of one of the nice things about starting with this hybrid approach, is it really demonstrates the ability of our technology to play well with existing materials. But in the situation you described, we would love for them to reach back out to us. And we can maybe even potentially work with them to coordinate what that renovation could look like, using our technology. Or they would be welcome to utilize traditional materials as well.
ADAM SHAPIRO: I'm no architect, but I think your designs and what you're building is incredibly stylish. Are you susceptible to the kind of commodity price swings that we're witnessing in traditional home building?
SAM RUBEN: We are not. So we're not using materials that are normally are impacted by the volatility in the lumber market and other markets that we've been seeing recently. We obviously have impacts from other industries. But from that traditional market and the rise in demand we saw throughout the pandemic, it did not impact us.
EMILY MCCORMICK: I'm wondering, too, just in terms of who's actually purchasing some of these Mighty buildings, what does the average buyer look like? Are these people looking for a starter home? Are there larger families that are also able to be accommodated by these? Or what is just the demographic trend looking like?
SAM RUBEN: Yeah, so it's been a real mix. The units we're delivering currently as mentioned are backyard apartments. So they go in properties that already have existing homes. As you see here, some of the use cases are younger families who need more space for, like, a pool house. We also have people who are having situations of intergenerational living, where maybe their kids move-- they're older. The kids move back. Or they want to move their elderly parents closer to them.
And then we're also seeing rental opportunities, such as Airbnbs, as well as longer rentals. With the new single family homes, we are definitely seeing people who are looking to get starter homes. And that's really why we've designed them on the smaller side, is because the starter home that you used to be able to buy in your 20s and early 30s just doesn't exist anymore. If you want to buy one now, it tends to be 30 to 60 years old. So we're really looking to help serve that market, given that we're seeing trends towards right-sized homes in millennials, Gen Z, as well as baby boomers, and even Gen X more and more.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Building codes are different across the country. And a lot of it is at the core is structural integrity. Do you find it a hindrance? Or do you find that what you're building, it fits the mold across the board?
SAM RUBEN: Well, that's part of why we started in California, actually, is because California has one of the most stringent building codes in the country. And so by being able to build here, it makes it easy to move into other states that have less restrictive codes along those lines. Additionally, we've been working closely with UL, Underwriters Laboratories, as well as the International Code Council and the state of California, to ensure that we're going above and beyond meeting code, as well as helping establishing new standards for 3D printing construction for the broader industry to be able to demonstrate that safety.
ADAM SHAPIRO: We are cheering your success and look forward to having you come back as you expand this business. All the best to you.