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Katerra Adds Former Construction CEO To Board Of Directors

Former Swinerton CEO Jeff Hoopes has joined the board of directors for Menlo Park-based prefab construction startup Katerra, the company said Wednesday.

Katerra Adds Former Construction CEO To Board Of Directors

Up until his retirement from the company in December, Hoopes had been the chief executive of San Francisco-based Swinerton since 2013. The commercial construction company named Eric Foster its 12th CEO earlier this month, Bisnow reported at the time

Now, after 35 years with Swinerton, Hoopes steps in as a construction expert for Katerra, a self-described tech company intent on revolutionizing the construction industry from design to supply chain to off-site, factory construction. 

The SoftBank-backed startup has reached a valuation of over $4B in pursuit of that goal, which Hoopes said he thinks is crucial in solving the labor and resultant productivity issues slowing down the industry and plaguing housing markets.

"The only way to change it is to do some kind of manufacturing in a controlled environment," Hoopes told Bisnow.

He refers to Katerra's new robot-laden factory in Tracy, California, which Katerra expects will be able to produce 12,500 multifamily units at full capacity, as a cutting-edge example. In the factory environment, labor will cost around $17 per hour, much less than the $100 per hour for a carpenter at a job site, Hoopes said. 

Since its founding in 2015, Katerra, which was started by veterans of the tech industry, has had mixed results. Though it faced recent reports of project pullouts, including for a San Diego hotel, the company also just secured a $650M contract with Saudi Arabia to build 8,000 homes in one of its biggest wins. 

Domestically, Katerra has a variety of projects, including a 192-unit Las Vegas multifamily community, next to which it also built a 24-unit research and development project in 90 days, it says. And in September, it opened a new mass timber factory in Spokane, Washington, for cross-laminated timber projects. 

With Hoopes, it adds a construction expert to a leadership group largely dominated by tech-industry veterans. CEO and co-founder Michael Marks comes from tech, as does board member and fellow co-founder Jim Davidson.

Other board members include SoftBank Investment Advisers Managing Partner Jeff Housenbold, EQ Office President and CEO Lisa Picard and Katerra Chief Operating Officer Paal Kibsgaard.

"For me, it's exciting to be a part of a technology company," Hoopes said. "I have 40 years of construction experience, and that's what I bring to the table."