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Monday, May 6, 2013, 7:00 am

Construction: Novato game maker builds Petaluma ‘mocap’ studio

Also: HybridCore gains projects in Midwest, North Bay

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    Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff ReporterNovato-based 2K, a video-game publishing label of New York-based Take-Two Interactive Software (Nasdaq: TTWO), is expanding its North Bay development studios for the second time in the past several months. The company has leased nearly 15,000-square-feet of warehouse space on Cypress Drive in Petaluma that is being transformed into a motion-capture studio, or “mocap” in industry lingo.

    A company spokesman declined to comment further on the project.

    Motion capture is a method used in movies and video games to provide natural-looking movements for computer-generated characters. Cameras and instruments capture movements of actors, who commonly wear suits with special markers on them to track motion. In the past few years, 2K publicly has touted its mocap work with sports celebrities at the Novato studios.

    Last fall, 2K expanded its headquarters and two development studios by 30 percent at the Hamilton Landing office park in Novato. [See "Game publisher makes big Novato expansion," Oct. 1.]

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    HybridCore Homes founders Shaun Faber, Otis Orsburn and Kevin Farrell received a National Modular Housing Council award in April.

    Santa Rosa-based HybridCore Homes is garnering orders and building industry accolades for its factory-built room modules designed significantly reduce onsite construction time and trades scheduling.

    The company has several hundred modules in planing or production for Midwest and California projects, according to Otis Orsburn, vice president of construction. HybridCore (hybridcorehomes.com) is designing and consultating on apartment projects in the rapidly growing North Dakota city of Williston. The first phase of Prairie Vista Apartments will have 81 units with 72 modules, called “Cores,” when completed this year. The second phase is expected to follow soon thereafter with 324 apartments and 312 Cores.

    This Los Altos house was built around a large HybridCore module.

    Potential projects include 24 apartments with 40 Cores in LaCrosse, Wis., and three single-family homes in Austin.

    Other jobs in the pipeline are three single-family homes in San Jose, one in Palo Alto, one in Truckee. In the North Bay pipeline are six Windsor homes, one in Sonoma, one northeast of Santa Rosa, two projects with Calistoga Affordable Housing and a 60-plus-townhome development.

    “As new home construction gets back on the radar, we are getting calls daily about using the HybridCore Homes methodology of homebuilding,” Mr. Orsburn said.

    He said one contractor told him use of the modules will allow him to build six homes a year instead of three.

    “Some have been doing house flips and now see an opportunity to get back into the homebuilding business,” Mr. Orsburn said.

    Because of such builder inquiries, HybridCore will be holding a “certified builder course” May 22 and 23 in Santa Rosa to discuss potential efficiencies and cost reduction with the Cores, how to estimate costs with such preengineered building components and nuances of installation. Registration costs $350 and is available at 707-523-3673 ext. 109. A simpler course for real estate agents is planned for June.

    On April 16, the National Modular Housing Council gave HybridCore the Best New Home Design in the 2,200-plus-square-foot category for a Los Altos home built around a Core with a kitchen, bathrooms, furnace, millwork and plumbing.

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    Spaceship-like Aptera 2e three-wheeled electric roadsters may begin rolling out of a downtown Santa Rosa industrial facility to buyers, now that the city of Santa Rosa has agreed to allow assembly of vehicles there. A year ago China-based Jonway Group, a major investor in Santa Rosa-based Zap Jonway, acquired intellectual property of the much-anticipated Aptera project and announced plans to assemble China-made parts in Santa Rosa. [See "Santa Rosa said to be home for reborn Aptera electric roadster," May 7, 2012.]

    But since then, main battery supplier A123 Systems went bankrupt and was acquired, and Jonway top executive Alex Wang became embroiled in legal disputes with certain Zap Jonway executives.

    In recent months, local real estate developer Rick Deringer, who had advised Zap a few years ago and has been a main proponent of the Santa Rosa angle for Aptera, said he convinced Mr. Wang to allow the vehicle to be largely made in the U.S. But, a sticking point was zoning for the 806 Donohue St. warehouse Mr. Deringer oversees and Zap Jonway used to occupy. Aptera USA had stored several 2e model prototypes in a major portion of the building and planned to use the rest for production after Zap Jonway moved out in mid-2012.

    Building owner Railroad Square Village, LLC, sought zoning clearance for 15 percent to 20 percent to be used for development, processing and assembly, similar to what Zap Jonway had used. The city initially rejected the request as a use out of conformance to the medium-density transit village designation for the area in the city General Plan. Mr. Deringer appealed. On April 22, the city granted zoning clearance for 15 percent usage.

    The plan is for building permits to be applied for in the next month or two. Composite-material body parts would be formed in Detroit and shipped to Santa Rosa for assembly with a drivetrain and battery. The “hand-built” cars would cost $80,000 to $100,000, similar to certain Tesla Motors models, rather than about $30,000 for planned China-built Aptera models for that market.

    ***

    Building information modeling, or BIM as it’s commonly called, is finding its way into a host of North Bay design software, such as those by San Rafael-based Autodesk, and in projects such as the Sutter Health north Santa Rosa hospital under construction. [See "Hospital projects highlight local adoption of BIM," Sept. 12, 2011.] Now, a nationwide group of BIM users, known as the BIMForum, is seeking industry comments on a proposed set of standards for completeness and reliability of the models during design and construction.

    The proposed level-of-design specification uses the basic LOD definitions developed by the American Institute of Architects and is organized by Construction Specifications Institute‘s UniFormat 2010. Jim Bedrick of San Francisco-based A/E/C Process Engineering is co-chair of the group of contractors, engineers and architects developing the standard. Comments are due on June 7 and can be made at bimforum.org/lod.

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    Submit items for this column to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.

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    Comments

    1 Comment

    1. May 6, 2013, 8:36 pm

      by David

      One of the original attractions of Aptera was it’s planned affordability; an EV for the masses. While the design is unique, the speficiations place it in direct competition with the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, and the Mitsubishi iMiev.
      If Jonway/Aptera expect to sell any of their EVs they’ll have to price them below the prices of the OEM EVs. If they try to compete with Tesla…. well, then people will buy a Tesla.


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