Company: Project Frog
By Nathan Hurst
Project Frog built a school in a warehouse.
Or at least, part of a school. The “componentized” building company — Frog management dislikes the terms “prefab” and “modular” — put up a life-size model of one classroom, a hall, and a couple other rooms in their warehouse on a San Francisco pier.
It was a trial run for the first school in Frog’s new line, which it calls the “Impact” platform — a quickly erected, easily reproducible, cost-saving approach to schoolhouse construction that will allow schools to include advanced facilities that are unaffordable with current building techniques.
The warehouse model is 2,400 square feet of what will eventually become the new 19,000 square-foot building at Santa Ana’s El Sol Academy. Though they faced multiple delays this spring — demolition is still yet to begin at the existing location and actual construction isn’t slated to begin until July — Project Frog nonetheless says the building will be completed by Thanksgiving, just under three months later.
El Sol is Frog’s latest attempt to streamline prefab. By designing whole buildings in-house, the story goes, Project Frog can cut out a lot of wasted effort and materials, and thereby, a lot of the price. They love to point out Boeing as an example, saying if that company can build an airliner in a little over a week, why do buildings take months or years? If you start with a bunch of interchangeable parts, you can assemble them rapidly without sacrificing quality, and even add elements other methods aren’t able to.
“If you make it simpler, it goes faster, and there’s less chance for things to go wrong,” says Ash Notaney, Project Frog’s vice president of product and innovation. He estimates the company can build a school for around $200 per square foot, as compared to an industry-standard of $280 to $300, according to Frog. General Electric believes him, and led a $22 million round of funding for Project Frog in 2011.