New residential construction is booming, but the industry is facing a significant labor shortage.
According to a report released this week by the Home Builders Institute (HBI), there’s a shortfall of approximately 200,000 skilled trade workers and 60 percent of builders have cited difficulty in filling positions. Although housing starts are at a 15-year high, the shortage of available labor is causing construction prices to rise due to timeline delays.
Canvas, a San Francisco-based construction robotics company that specializes in drywall finishing, is aiming to address the ongoing labor shortage by “putting robots in the hands of skilled workers.” Trained union workers operate the robots, directing them to automatically perform the labor-intensive finishing work.
The robotics technology reduces typical drywall finishing times from seven to two days, providing the highest level of quality (Level 5 finish) while eliminating the risk of any work-related injuries caused by repetitive motions. It also drastically reduces the amount of drywall sanding dust, which can cause silicosis or lung cancer in workers who are exposed to it over long periods of time.
Last week it was announced that Canvas had raised $24 million in Series B financing led by Menlo Ventures, a Bay Area venture capital firm. The round also included participation from Suffolk Construction, Alumni Ventures Group, and existing investors Innovation Endeavors, Brick & Mortar Ventures, Obvious Ventures and Grit Labs. Canvas plans to use the funding to build more robots and develop new ways to implement its technology across job sites.
“Adoption of Canvas has accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis, as owners and builders continue to look to differentiate on quality in the tight labor market and competitive construction environment,” reads a press release regarding the Series B financing.
Canvas came out of stealth mode in November 2020 after three years of building its patent portfolio and working alongside builders and a local trade union to troubleshoot its innovative approach to drywall finishing.
The company’s past projects include the Harvey Milk Terminal at San Francisco International Airport, the headquarters of an unnamed technology company in the Chase Center office towers, and the Gladys Valley Center for Vision at UCSF.