Based in Berkeley, California, Nautilus Group (Nautilus) is doing things differently, approaching fully-integrated construction unlike others in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a unified group of architects, engineers, contractors and real estate developers working in tandem, Nautilus brings the complete project scope under one roof to build better buildings and some first-of-the-kind projects on the West Coast.
“There are others out there like us, but we’re a vertically integrated firm,” compares Jason Laub, vice president of Nautilus. “We do everything from land acquisition to sales and leasing upon completion and everything in between – financing, permitting, design, engineering, architecture, construction management and much more all in-house.”
Since inception in 2009, Nautilus has completed a range of unique projects in the Bay Area from the first completely robotic below-grade parking garage to a LEED Gold certified outpatient surgery center for UCLA. More recently, however, the company has shot onto the scene in the multifamily and mixed-use markets.
“Randy Miller, president of Nautilus, founded the company in 2009 so we’re a fairly young company,” tells Laub.
Whether or not the company has many years under its belt, Nautilus knows its strengths. “We tend to do things differently,” explains Laub. “This philosophy continues into the multifamily market, because we’re building in a modular, prefabricated fashion. The method has been around for decades, but at least in California, it never really seemed to catch on, but now modular is gaining more steam.”
It wasn’t until about 2012 that Nautilus honed its focus in on the prefab market. Before 2012, the company completed a medical building in Santa Monica, California. “In 2009, we landed our first large project – an outpatient surgery center for UCLA in southern California,” tells Laub. “The 50,000-square-foot center included 24 prep and recovery bays and eight operating rooms. It achieved LEED Gold certification and the project won a lot of design awards, including national AIA awards.”
Below the UCLA surgery center, Nautilus also began building the area’s first fully automated, robotic parking garage, similar to ones seen in other parts of the world, but the first on the West Coast.
“Randy toured a bunch of different garage systems around the world,” he details. “He found that some systems were fast, but not easy to use and vice versa. Not finding the right design, Nautilus set out to partner with a few other companies to develop a design-build custom parking system.”
The result is a six level, below-grade parking structure that can fit 380 vehicles – everything from a Lamborghini to a Ford F-150, according to Laub. “The parking garage needed to support the 50,000-square-foot facility’s intensive parking demands. By designing and installing a fully automated robotic parking system, we were able to provide the required parking spaces in half of the square footage of a conventional garage and one-third of the volume.”
In Berkeley, Nautilus has been a part of the design-build scope of a commercial-scale rooftop farm atop a residential building called Garden Village. “The rooftop farm will provide more than 12,000 square feet of growing space,” tells Laub. “The farm is the first of its kind in California and will yield approximately 32,000 pounds of produce annually.”
Paving the way in prefab in the Bay
After several first-of-the-kind projects throughout California, Nautilus is swiftly moving into another unique niche market: prefabricated building. “Since 2012 we’ve started to focus on mixed-use and multifamily projects using modular construction,” notes Laub. “We purchased an 118,000-square-foot manufacturing facility; Nemo Building Systems [Nemo], just east of the Bay Area.”
This expansion has facilitated Nautilus’ rapid growth, from 12 employees in 2009 to now 20 full-time architects, engineers, construction managers and more. “We’re now designing and manufacturing modular components and we have about 750 modules in queue slated for the next three years,” reveals Laub. “When we reach full production, Nemo will be up to 60 employees on the factory floor.”
The goal of Nemo and entering the prefab market is to launch a vertically integrated effort, taking projects design to fabrication and construction, start to finish on the company’s own land. “In summer 2014, we broke ground on a pilot project in Oakland, California, setting 10 modules for a five-unit apartment building,” tells Laub. “We’re calling it a pilot project, because it’s one of the first modular buildings Nautilus has done and it’s about working out the kinks to better understand what works and what doesn’t.”
Laub says once this pilot project reaches completion Nautilus will be in a good position to continue more modular construction and meet the bourgeoning market demand. “We’re working on growing our subcontractor base to support more modular development,” he says.
With a unified skillset, Nautilus delivers full integration. “We’re doing it all,” measures Laub. “From land acquisition to sales and leasing and everything in between; it’s not just about thinking outside of the box, but also going outside of the box and daring to try new things.” This strategy is working for Nautilus Group as it becomes the Bay Area’s vertically integrated modular builder-developer.
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