“You’ve heard of the big-box store. Get ready for the store in a big box,” writes Todd Woody in Forbes (1/2/13). Project Frog, a San Francisco-based startup, recently assembled a new 7-Eleven store in Dallas from “flat-packed, prefabricated wall units, roof panels and other jumbo components … labeled and numbered like parts for a giant Ikea Akurum cabinet. What look like supersize bento boxes contain neatly packaged plastic bags of bolts, clips and other hardware. A pair of bathrooms, complete with toilet roll dispenser and baby-changing table, are … lowered by crane into the the 3,000-square-foot store’s shell, where they’ll be plugged into the plumbing.”
The result is a “stylish, energy-efficient” building “that can be built in less time and as much as 50 percent cheaper. The Dallas 7-Eleven store” went up “at least a month faster than would a conventional ‘stick built’ store.” As Project Frog CEO Ann Hand explains: “We have more in common with Boeing or Toyota than the way buildings traditionally go up … We design a common chasis or platform for different types of buildings that people can re-program according to their needs.” Most of Project Frog’s early projects were schools and government buildings, but it now is expanding into retail, as well as healthcare.
Among its clients is Kaiser Permanente, for which it is building a 40,000 square-foot facility in Hawaii that is expected to cost up to 20 percent less to build, while boasting 20 percent greater energy efficiency. It is also expected to take “eight months off the typical construction time.” A Project Frog schoolhouse meanwhile features “ample natural light and an automated LED control system” that will “slash lighting demand by 85 percent,” while “the structure’s tight seal and other improvements will cut air-conditioning costs.” Project Frog vp Ash Notaney says building the school costs about $210 per square foot, about $90 psf less than “California schools of a similar quality.”