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Design

Can Silicon Valley Disrupt How We Build?

Flush with venture capital, the startup Katerra wants to revolutionize the construction industry. But as history shows, it’s harder than it looks.
Workers in Katerra's factory in Phoenix, the first of several that the company plans to open around the country.
Workers in Katerra's factory in Phoenix, the first of several that the company plans to open around the country. Katerra

From the end of the Second World War until a few years ago, when it cooled off, productivity surged across the U.S. economy, giving rise to what’s often called the “productivity miracle.” From manufacturing to agriculture to retail, industry after industry became cheaper, faster, more mechanized, and more efficient.

But the same can’t be said of construction. Productivity in construction has not only not risen, it’s actually lower now than it was in 1968.