WoHo

Founders

Israel Ruiz, Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril

Industry

Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing

Background

MIT, Ensamble Studio

Creating beautiful, intelligent, and scalable building systems that raise the standards of low-to-high rise construction.

Why is construction, a process both ubiquitous and ancient, still so fragmented and inefficient? Why is there such a gulf between innovation in building materials and the process by which these materials are assembled into functional structures? Why is it that most buildings must start from a blank slate, with each step making the final product more expensive and less impactful? Questions like these drive WoHo, a company founded by Antón García-Abril, Débora Mesa, and Israel Ruiz, to change the way we build, design, and develop. The company expects to lower the costs of construction by more than 20%, shrink project delivery time by 50%, and reduce the ecological footprint of buildings by 70%, all while improving project predictability and construction quality.

The seeds of what would become WoHo were planted in 2012 when Mesa and García-Abril founded the Prototypes of Prefabrication Laboratory (POPlab) at MIT. The pair had experimented with offsite construction and prefabricated parts as early as 2007, when they built the Hemeroscopium House in Madrid from precast concrete. But it was at the POPlab that they turned their focus to lightweight materials while continuing research on prefabricated systems. The pair are also the founders of Ensamble Studio, an award-winning global architectural firm based in Madrid and Boston, where they work as both hands-on builders and architects on projects throughout the world. 

Ruiz, WoHo’s CEO and an engineer, met Mesa and García-Abril at MIT where he served as the Executive Vice President and Treasurer. While at MIT, Ruiz oversaw the capital renewal and construction program of over one thousand residential units and over two million square feet of labs and offices. Ruiz was also instrumental to the real estate development of Kendall Square.

The three united over a shared philosophy — that the complexities of modern development are, in many ways, a relic of a process that’s remained unchanged for decades. And that by reimagining the way buildings are designed and made can actually increase the quality of the finished product, creating welcoming and resilient places to live and work. 

Ruiz, García-Abril, and Mesa see WoHo as a new approach to architecture — no longer is the discipline the visionary planning phase of a project, instead it is interwoven through every chapter of a structure’s life. The company has developed a system of discrete foundational components which can be scaled and configured to span both residential and commercial buildings like multifamily housing, hotels, labs, offices, and dormitories. Such an approach gives WoHo control over the design, material selection, and overall quality of each assembly at a finer level than traditional construction, allowing the team to continuously iterate and improve facets of their assemblies without stalling production. 

The company is planning to build lean, modular factories that balance automation and handwork close to construction hubs, simplifying the logistics, lowering the costs, and reducing the environmental footprint of its buildings. It is also building an ecosystem of partners and preferred suppliers. The team likens its WoHo Production System (WPS) to the automotive industry, with its network of value-add suppliers and assembly lines, with their optimized interplay between human and machine. 

“Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental needs of physical structures, whatever we call our Home, remain. We are undergoing a paradigm shift for architectural design and construction,” Ruiz notes. He continues, ”WoHo is building the new generation of intelligent, safe and sustainable spaces. We are raising the standards and expectations for how buildings are created. WoHo is changing how we design and construct our world — so that everyone wins.”

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