* You are viewing the archive for the ‘Industry News’ Category

B2 or not B2 – that a question? Sorry for the word play on the Bard’s work, but we could not resist…

The folks at ENR.com have posted an article by Nadine Post that we think accurately portrays the promise and the potential of Modular Construction WHEN ITS USED PROPERLY, and the downside when it is not.  Just like any construction technology, Modular must be implemented properly to achieve the reward of improved quality, reduced schedule and reduced cost.  We thank Nadine for an excellent article.

 

Issue: 09/15/2014

The Promise and Pitfalls of Modular Buildings

09/09/2014

By Nadine M. Post

Modular-building boosters, including traditional owners, developers, contractors and designers, maintain that off-site construction is faster, safer, leaner, greener, better quality and potentially less costly than site construction. But there is a big hitch, they caution: Building teams are not likely to reach modular delivery’s pot of gold unless they plan and execute the off-site strategy properly. And that is no simple proposition.

“Everyone thinks it’s a silver bullet,” says Jeffrey M. Brown, the developer and general contractor for the Stack, a mostly factory-built seven-story residential building in Upper Manhattan that opened in May. “It really isn’t unless you put the right ingredients in the bowl.”

Few know that better than developer Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC) and its team building the world’s future tallest modular tower: the 32-story B2 BKLYN residential building in Brooklyn, N.Y. Stalled at 10 stories, the B2 project at the $4.9-billion Pacific Park Brooklyn site, until recently called Atlantic Yards, is a glaring example of modular gone sour. The B2 project, designed by SHoP Architects, was going to take factory-built modular to the next level through the use of sophisticated digital tools to design, fabricate and manage assembly of the 930 modules.

Instead of a poster child for improved high-rise modular, B2 has become the poster child for modular run amok. Unable to solve their differences privately over delays and cost overruns, FCRC and Skanska USA Building Inc.—B2′s construction manager and FCRC’s partner in a new modular plant, called FC+Skanska Modular—are battling it out in court.

Despite the situation, both Skanska and FCRC say they are committed to factory-built modular. “We believe in modular as the future of the industry,” says Richard A. Kennedy, Skanska’s co-chief operating officer.

In a Sept. 4 letter to Kennedy, FCRC President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin says, “We remain resolute in modular technology’s potential and promise.”

Modular-building veterans are rattled by the B2 feud. “I’m angry because it gave this industry a black eye,” says Tom O’Hara, vice president for business development at Capsys Corp. The factory builder is supplying modules for a 65-unit residential building in the Bronx, N.Y., called 3361 Third Avenue.

Modular is of interest to traditional builders because, in part, it has been identified as a means for improving building production. Collaborative delivery and advances in digital tools for design, coordination, clash detection, project management and fabrication support the movement, as do advances in lifting equipment.

“This is not a new process, but there is newfound interest of late,” says Tom Hardiman, executive director of the Modular Building Institute (MBI).

Until 2009, the 31-year-old MBI had no traditional contractor members. Now, there are a dozen, including Gilbane Building Co., Mortenson Construction and PCL, but not Skanska or FCRC.

Off-site construction is most apppropriate for buildings with repetition, including schools, housing, hospitals, multifamily residential, hotels and dormitories. Many recent modular buildings are a mix of site-built, non-repetitive lower floors topped by assemblies.

The B2 drama is serving as a cautionary tale. The 85-member Off-Site Construction Council, formed last year by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to advance all types of prefabrication and preassembly, “is interested in learning what works and what does not in all projects that pursue the use of off-site construction,” says Ryan Colker, the council’s director. “As the case unfolds, we will be looking to understand any role off-site construction had in the dispute.”

To the NIBS council, “off-site construction” is the design, fabrication and assembly of building elements at a location other than their installed location. “Off-site construction is characterized by an integrated planning and supply-chain optimization strategy,” says the council, in its draft off-site construction glossary.

Permanent modular construction, also known as volumetric or 3D modular, is a subset of off-site. NIBS defines it as “an innovative, sustainable construction delivery method utilizing off-site, lean manufacturing techniques to prefabricate single or multistory whole building solutions in deliverable module sections.” PMC buildings are made in a safe, controlled setting and can be framed in wood, steel or concrete. Modules can be delivered with mechanical-electrical-plumbing systems, fixtures and interior finishes.

“The application of manufacturing principles to design and construction enables us to put buildings together in more innovative ways,” says Sue Klawans, Gilbane’s director of operational excellence and planning and the council’s vice chair. “Why bring 2 million individual bricks, studs and wire connectors to the site? Let’s reduce that by a factor of 10 or 100.”

Off-site construction leaves “many owners, architects and builders confused and sometimes put off by the process,” says Ryan E. Smith, chairman of the NIBS council and director of the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center at the University of Utah. “It is not easy for those in their first rodeo.”

“Not easy” is an understatement for the first residential rodeo of FCRC and Skanska. Sited up against the two-year-old Barclays Center arena, B2 is already more than a year behind its original December completion date. On Aug. 27, Skanska stopped work at both the site and the FC+Skanska Modular plant, furloughing more than 150 workers and raising the ire of Forest City. Lawsuits have followed.

Skanska is asking for more than $50 million in damages over its $117-million fixed-price contract to cover alleged “commercial and design issues.” Forest City, on a campaign to reopen the plant, alleges Skanska has breached its contract after “multiple failures and missteps” that led to “massive delays and cost overruns.”

John Erb, vice president of sales and marketing for Deluxe Building Systems Inc., says, “If a project goes awry, it means the team didn’t know the process. It’s like me trying to perform open-heart surgery tomorrow without any training.” Deluxe supplied modules for the 90.5-ft-tall Stack, the U.S. record-holder for the tallest completed modular building.

Factory modular is “a science” and “outsiders” should not venture into the business, which is drastically different from traditional site construction, says Capsys’ O’Hara.

There are flaws in the B2 scheme, say those experienced with modular, especially the “still” construction plan developed by XSite Modular—Forest City’s modular-business partner-consultant before Skanska. Unlike an assembly line, still construction is built in place by teams, each assigned to a vertical line of identical units. The approach and the 913 unique modules do not take advantage of the efficiencies of assembly-line production, say modular experts.

O’Hara also maintains that the B2 modules, which include facade panels, are too complete. Most modules don’t include the panels because they often cause alignment problems during field fit-up.

FCRC and Skanska declined to comment on the criticism of their approach.

Modular delivery disrupts the economics, workflow, contracts, coordination points, insurance and building regulations of conventional site-built projects. There can be issues with the union building trades. Off-site delivery raises questions even about warranties versus bonding. Is a bathroom pod a product or not?

Plan review also must be completed early, but most buildings departments are not geared up for this.

Transportation, picking, setting, tolerances, on-site stitching and detailing are different from site construction. “I have tremendous respect for logistics, which can make or break a project,” says the Stack’s Brown. “Transportation is a big piece of the cost.”

Global Building Modules—with FXFowle Architects as architect, LERA as structural engineer and Dagher Engineering as mechanical engineer—is trying to market a patented modular system that would solve some of the transportation issues. The concept calls for steel-framed modules that are dimensionally the same as shipping containers; the modules could be produced in port areas of cheap labor and shipped by sea and rail to sites.

So far, there have been no takers. “Everyone is always blown away by how technically resolved the idea is, but each asks, ‘Who has done a building?’ ” says David Wallance, a senior associate at FXFowle.

Project Frog has demonstrated a way around flat-bed-truck limitations for 3D modules. The company supplies kits of parts to the site; only bathroom pods are 3D. “Flat-pack construction is affordable to ship,” says Ann Hand, Project Frog’s president and CEO.

Modular delivery relies on owner buy-in and early team collaboration. With 3D modular, there is no fast-tracking, but there is resequencing. Design decisions have to be finalized up front, to allow prospective modular builders to price the job and the winner to order supplies.

“Bathroom finish colors and tile patterns are not typically set during the foundation-document phase,” says Maja Rosenquist, project director with Mortenson Construction for the $623-million Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital, which has off-site-built elements and is nearing completion in Denver.

The early decisions for the Bronx project “put enormous pressure on us,” says James McCullar. His eponymous firm is the architect for the 64-module project.

It’s best to test the waters of modular in stages. Gilbane started with preassembled multitrade utility racks on a U.S. project. Then, it added vertical risers to the next job: the 270,000-sq-ft Global Technical & Innovation Center in Kerry, Ireland. The various prefabricated components sliced three months off the laboratory’s schedule, says Gilbane. “The modular nature, developed in the [building information model], allowed us to run a number of layout and cost scenarios early,” says Ian Howard, project manager for the client, the Kerry Group. “That gives us a high degree of confidence.”

Discounting glitches with the buildings department that caused a three-month delay, the Stack would have taken two-thirds the time of site construction, says Peter Gluck, of Gluck+, the Stack’s architect design-builder.

Mortenson commissioned the University of Colorado, Boulder, to do a study on its 831,000-sq-ft Denver project to compare it to site construction. The study concluded that the prefab approach for utility racks, bathroom pods, exterior panels and head walls reduced the schedule by 72 work days. The job used 29,500 fewer hours of labor, resulting in $2.6 million in productivity savings, and diverted 150,000 hours of labor off-site. There was $4.3 million in indirect cost savings, but direct costs were 6% more than site construction, according to the study.

“Certain elements were more expensive until the indirect costs were accounted for,” thanks to the fear factor in the pricing, says Bill Gregor, Mortenson’s construction executive for the hospital.

Mortenson holds a prefab charrette to determine the off-site path for a project. Another important step is a full-scale prototype to avoid repeating a mistake hundreds of times.

Some say design-build is the best delivery system for modular, but any collaborative approach will work. Architect James B. Guthrie, president of Miletus Group Inc., a modular design-build firm, has doubts about modular becoming mainstream any time soon. Until there is a better knowledge base and a better supply chain, “modular won’t become widespread,” he says.

The NIBS council was formed to fill the knowledge gap and gather metrics to prove the case, especially to reluctant owners. “We’ve recognized it’s a challenge to capture some of the potential efficiencies,” says Colker.

To help foster off-site, the council recently posted two online surveys. The deadline for responses is Oct. 15.

The industry survey, available online here, is intended to identify the opportunities and challenges associated with the use of off-site construction processes and technologies.

The academic survey, available online here, will determine the scope of off-site construction teaching and research in U.S. colleges and universities. Results will be used to support the development of tools and resources for the schools.

The council also is seeking $150,000 for an off-site construction implementation guide, to help demystify the process.

Demystification is already under way in the U.K., home to the world’s tallest completed modular tower: a 24-story dorm at the University of Wolverhampton. The 10-year-old industry group Buildoffsite has published hundreds of case studies that detail the benefits of off-site solutions. They are available at www.buildoffsite.com.

Pitfalls aside, mainstream builders’ move toward modular delivery is a logical step in one of biggest transformations in the construction industry since the introduction of the combustion engine and electric power, says Gilbane’s Klawans.

“We’re in the midst of creative destruction and reinvention of our industry,” says Klawans. “It’s exciting.”

A modular building project in the Bronx is moving along, with four of its 64 total modules added each day.

Third Ave, Bronx

http://enr.construction.com/business_management/project_delivery/2014/0915-The-Promise-and-Pitfalls-of-Modular-Buildings.asp

Modular Housing in UK to be used for massive Social Housing project

The UK has been employing off-site construction to provide speedy, high-quality social housing for many years. The percentage of all residential construction in UK utilizing off-site construction approaches 25%. The UK has been employing off-site construction to provide speedy, high-quality social housing for many years. The percentage of all residential construction in UK utilizing off-site construction approaches 25%. In some areas such as in Scotland, as much as 45% of all single family home construction utilizes off-site construction. The following is copied from Inside Housing.Co.UK a website which follows the “News, views and jobs in Social Housing” throughout the UK. This is an example of a creative and cooperative approach to achieving new housing. We should be so far-sighted in the US! InThe UK has been employing off-site construction to provide speedy, high-quality social housing for many years. The percentage of all residential construction in UK utilizing off-site construction approaches 25%. In some areas such as in Scotland, as much as 45% of all single family home construction utilizes off-site construction.
The following is copied from Inside Housing.Co.UK a website which follows the “News, views and jobs in Social Housing” throughout the UK. This is an example of a creative and cooperative approach to achieving new housing. We should be so far-sighted in the US!
some areas such as in Scotland, as much as 45% of all single family home construction utilizes off-site construction.
The following is copied from Inside Housing.Co.UK a website which follows the “News, views and jobs in Social Housing” throughout the UK. This is an example of a creative and cooperative approach to achieving new housing. We should be so far-sighted in the US!

 

Inside Housing.Co.UK

Landlords plan order of 500 off-site homes

5 September 2014 | By Pete Apps

An informal consortium of social landlords is planning to club together to order 500 off-site homes.

The landlords- which include Riverside, Manchester City Council and New Charter- are interested in delivering more homes through off-site production, but require a large order for the deal to make financial sense.

New Charter’s involvement also brings in JV North, a development consortium with 12 members which may all add orders to the bid.

The group plans to place an order of 500 homes by July with an as yet unknown factory based developer of housing.

The news follows north-west procurement consortium Procure Plus’s plan to build a factory to construct off-site homes which could be up and running by 2016.

Mark Patchitt, director of regeneration at Riverside, said: ‘A lot of [off-site] manufacture needs a big order for it to make sense. The companies that set up the factories need to know they have volume and continuity to make it a worthwhile venture.

‘So we’ve got together an informal off-site manufacturing club to see if we can get together an order of at least 500 homes.’

The government is actively seeking to increase off-site production among social landlords, with a fifth of the homes under the next round of the affordable homes programme likely to be built off site.

Brandon Lewis, the housing minister, said: ‘We are encouraging the use of innovative off-site construction in house building, through planning guidance and our house building programmes.’

The “Other” Huge Modular Project in Brooklyn

Our friends at Modular Home Builder an industry blog run by our friends at www.modularhomecoach.com ran the following article the other day about our on-going Nehemiah Spring Creek housing project.  We are proud of our almost 20 year affiliation with Nehemiah and Monadnock Construction the GC of the project.  Capsys has provided hundreds of high-quality family houses and apartments to the Nehemiah Organization since 1996.  This article describes our current project and contains a neat Spring Creek neighborhood drive-through video at the end.  Our thanks the Mod Coach for the posting.

MODULAR HOME BUILDER

The leading blog for the modular home industry.

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brooklyn’s Other Huge Modular Project on Schedule

Capsys Corp is currently finishing up the first grouping of homes for the next phase of Nehemiah’s Spring Creek project located on a former 45 acre former landfill site east of Brooklyn, NY.
Built in partnership with East Brooklyn Congregations and designed by architect Alexander Gorlin, Nehemiah is composed of prefabricated one-, two- and three-family homes assembled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Homeowners put down as little as $8,000 to purchase their houses, which ranged in price from $158,000 to $488,000.
When completed by 2016, over 1,525 new homes and apartments will be built on these streets tucked in behind Related Companies Gateway Plaza Mall, Belt Parkway, and two state parks opening by 2014. In September, three new schools will open on a $75 million campus constructed by the Department of Education.
Spring Creek Nehemiah (as residents call it) will be home to 233 first-time homeowners who won the right to live at Nehemiah in a lottery sponsored by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, a major partner in the project. They applied to the lottery more than five years ago, some as many as 17 years back. Soon, 50 new owners will move in. Five parks, a supermarket and EMS station will be finished upon plan completion.
Nehemiah Spring Creek 1 Nehemiah Spring Creek 2
These prefabricated townhouses are part of the Nehemiah program to build the largest affordable housing development for first-time homebuyers in New York City. More than 800 homes are planned around a vibrant community-oriented streetscape and neighborhood.
The first two phases and phase 3B, approximately 287 of 578 townhouses, are now complete with phase 3A under construction. Individual modular units are constructed in a nearby factory and trucked to the site where they are then joined together into two-, three- and four-story houses.  To create visual interest and distinct identities, multiple facade types were designed, each of which can be clad in one of a dozen different colors of siding. A modern interpretation of traditional Brooklyn townhouses, stoops line the street leading to a raised front door. Parking is along rear alleys in the interior of each block, allowing the homes to open directly onto the sidewalk.

“Disaster Housing Gets A Surprising Makeover In New York City” – The Huffington Post

Disaster Housing Gets A Surprising Makeover In New York City (PHOTOS)

 

The Huffington Post
Posted: Updated: 

When you think about your surroundings during a natural disaster, style isn’t ever likely to come to mind. Thankfully, New Yorkers, the Office of Emergency Management has done the thinking for you, unveiling a housing unit designed to ride out relief efforts when the next “superstorm” hits. And to our surprise, it’s quite stylish.

First, a little backstory: Last year, a report released by the Department of Homeland Security revealed ongoing criticism against the accommodations traditionally used to house residents displaced by natural disasters. In addition to their unappealing aesthetic, the 64-foot long, 14-feet wide FEMA-run trailers, have posed a number of concerns for those who often occupy them well beyond the amount of time they were originally intended to stay. Namely, the housing is expensive, costing taxpayers some $48,000 each, CNS News reported. In highly populated areas like New York City,space is another concern when you consider that a one-acre lot, which normally contains 200 households can only house 10 single-family FEMA trailers.

But a new pre-fab prototype by Garrison Architects aims to address some of those concerns. And did we mention, it’s pretty, too?

The model units confirm what some housing industry insiders (and many of the tiny-home dwellers we’ve come across here at HuffPost Home) have known to be true for some time: bigger isn’t always better. Not only have they proven successful in places like Europe, smaller modular units can be built inside, away from weather and dirt, with much less wasted material as Tom O’Hara, director of business development at Capsys, explained to Marketplace.org, possibly solving for the issue of getting larger trailers to the scene of a disaster — a concern highlighted in the Homeland Security report.

Check out the photos below and read more about Garrison’s project over at Architizer.

  • Andrew Rugge/archphoto
    The three-story unit located in downtown Brooklyn is a welcome alternative to theFEMA trailers traditionally used to house residents displaced by natural disasters.
  • Andrew Rugge/archphoto
    Inside, three apartments range in size from a 480-square-foot one bedroom to an 813-square-foot three bedroom, and include living areas, full kitchens and storage space.
  • Andrew Rugge/archphoto
    According to Architizer, city staff will put this prototype to a year of testing as they live in the unit at five-day intervals at a time.
  • Andrew Rugge/archphoto
    But despite the homes’ comfier offerings and ability to stack on top of one another, questions remain about whether they really area viable alternative for urban evacuees.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/nyc-disaster-housing_n_5544350.html

“Prefab Apartment Buildings on the rise” according to Marketplace.org

Prefab apartment buildings on the rise

​by Dan Bobkoff

Monday, April 21, 2014 – 16:13

Dan Bobkoff

The first floors of a modular apartment building are already in place behind the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Dan Bobkoff

The skeleton of a new apartment module comes together at Capsys’s factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Dan Bobkoff

A bathroom in an apartment at The Stack. All fixtures were installed in the factory, not at the site.

Dan Bobkoff

A kitchen in an apartment at The Stack. Even the appliances were installed in the factory.

Dan Bobkoff

A model living room at The Stack in the Inwood section of Manhattan.

Dan Bobkoff

The staggered block design of The Stack was designed to highlight its modular construction.

A new apartment building called The Stack is about to open in the Inwood section of Manhattan. By design, it looks like a collection of staggered Lego blocks. On the inside, it’s like any other modern rental building in New York. It has a sleek, simple design.

What’s different is that these apartments were not built here in Manhattan, but almost entirely somewhere else.

“The paint, the lighting, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, the bathroom tile, fixtures, mirror, all of that is done in the factory,” says The Stack’s architect, Tom Gluck, with the firm GLUCK+.

Gluck has been an architect for years, but this is the first time his firm has built what’s called a modular building.

Each apartment comes out of a factory from a company, like Capsys in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It looks like an auto plant, complete with assembly line run on a track in the ground.

“Where we’re building pieces of building like you’d build a car in a factory. You get that repetition, that precision,” says Tom O’Hara, director of business development at Capsys.

On one end of the plant, a team is joining steel beams to make the skeleton of a new apartment. On the other end, a crew is putting the finishing touches on a unit. One guy is tiling the bathroom. You could cook in this kitchen. There’s even a thermostat on the wall already. The apartments are so close to finished that they look like you could move in immediately, if they weren’t sitting on a factory floor.

 

An apartment module nearing completion at Capsys. It will soon be trucked to the building site and hoisted into place. (Photo: Dan Bobkoff)

But soon, this entire apartment will be put on a flatbed, trucked to the Bronx, then hoisted on top of all the other modular apartments. When the building’s done, you won’t even know it was built this way.

There are many reasons proponents like O’Hara think modular construction is better: it’s built inside, away from weather and dirt. It’s faster because you can build the foundation and the building at the same time. There’s much less wasted material. And yet, while it’s popular in Europe, modular construction in the U.S. remains a rounding error, accounting for just a tiny percentage of new home and multifamily construction.

“I think a lot of people really have misconceptions about the modular business,” O’Hara says.  “I think they feel somehow that there’s substandard construction in the factory.”

He says most people think modular means mobile homes or boring, blocky buildings. To him, it just means it’s built better.

“Why would I want my toaster built by a guy sitting on a bench with a ten snip banging things together. I want it out of a factory! Why shouldn’t the building come out of a factory?” O’Hara says.

Modular has been seen as the future before, and yet never caught on beyond certain sectors like college dorms and hotels.

But nearly everyone I talked to thinks this is the moment that changes.

“A lot of it truthfully has to do with this building that we’re standing in front of,” says Jim Garrison, an architect and professor at the Pratt Institute. We’re behind the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, looking at what’ll soon be the tallest modular building: 32 stories of apartments.

It’s funded by a big name developer. Garrison says it’s the biggest example that modular is possible, practical, and not necessarily cookie cutter.

“We now have opportunities to build very interesting buildings using these systems. And, people are listening to the benefits that come with it,” Garrison says.

That’s not to say modular doesn’t have downsides. Because it’s made of boxes, you end up with walls against walls, taking up valuable square footage in the building. Designers have to decide everything on the front end. But more developers are attracted to modular’s faster, and sometimes cheaper construction. And, with new projects in the works, maybe this time is different.

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/prefab-apartment-buildings-rise

MyMicro NY, our modular, micro-apartment tower coming to Manhattan later this year

M&T Bank Finances Manhattan’s First Micro-Unit Development

BY DAMIAN GHIGLIOTTY 4/02 12:54PM

It was a tight deal for an even tighter development. M&T Bank recently closed a $10.3 million construction loan for the creation of Manhattan’s first micro-unit rental property to be built in Kips Bay. The loan went to Brooklyn-based Monadnock Construction, which is leading the project’s development team, Mortgage Observer has first learned.

The nine-story “My Micro NY” project, located on the northeast corner of East 27th Street and Mt. Carmel Place, will consist of 55 prefabricated apartments averaging about 300 square feet with 40 percent of the units being offered at below market rates. The mini apartments will contain nearly 10-foot ceilings and seven-foot-wide balconies in addition to 16-foot-long overhead loft spaces and full closets.

My Micro NY RenderingMy Micro NY Rendering

“Modular construction is cost efficient and we believe these micro-units will fill a need in the Manhattan market,” said M&T Regional President Peter D’Arcy. “As one of New York City’s more experienced commercial real estate lenders, we’ve thoroughly reviewed the business case for this project and are very comfortable providing the financial support.” M&T declined to discuss the term and rate of the construction loan, which closed in March.

Monadnock and its partners, the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and New York-based architecture firm nARCHITECTS, won a competition to build the city’s first micro-units in early 2013. Installation of the 55 units, prefabricated by Capsys Corporation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, began earlier this year. The micro-units, being installed on the site of an old surface parking lot near Bellevue Park South, are expected to be available for rent in 2015. The ground floor of the completed property will contain 678 square feet of retail space.

Additional financing for the $16.6 million project will come through equity provided by the project’s developers and a secondary loan from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“It’s exciting to pioneer this new housing type in association with the City and our partners, including M&T,” said Nicholas Lembo, Monadnock’s president. “It’s an ideal application for modular construction, and we’re proud to use this innovative approach to offer another affordable option to New Yorkers looking for housing that fits their lifestyles.”

 

http://commercialobserver.com/2014/04/mt-finances-manhattans-first-micro-unit-development/

The Epoch Times has published a feature focused on Modular Construction in New York

The buzz around Modular construction in New York just keep growing. We were happy to discuss our 18 years of NY modular construction history with the Epoch Times recently and we thought you might like to read the resulting article.

 

Modular Construction Takes Off in New York
Atlantic Yards prefabs aiming for a luxury look, My Micro NY set to begin this year in Kips Bay
By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times | February 1, 2014 Last Updated: January 31, 2014 10:19 am

100308_capsys_0266-718x1024

NEW YORK—Modular building and prefabrication have been gaining attention in recent years, largely because of high-profile projects and micro-unit housing rolling out in major cities like New York and San Francisco.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported the modular concept with his adAPT NYC micro-housing competition last year, allowing for smaller than ever units to be built in the city. Construction of nARCHITECTS’ winning design for My Micro NY, at 335 East 27th St., in Kips Bay, will begin this year. Also, after 10 years in the works, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has finally started stacking modules.

Brooks McDaniel with SHoP Architects is project architect for the first modular residential tower at Atlantic Yards. “Since modular is so new to New York, we had to kind of reinvent the wheel,” said Brooks. “Once we got over the engineering hurdles it was like designing any other [project].”

Modular is hardly new, but the Atlantic Yards project is trying to create a luxury look using prefabricated modules.

The challenge was to not have “modular look like modular,” with this particular project, McDaniel said.

Catch-22
My Micro NY, with units a mere 325-square feet–previously a prohibited size for the city, will build units that are completely self-supporting. Capsys, the company prefabricating the modules, has been in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for 18 years.

There are obvious economic and sustainability benefits when it comes to building modular, but the reason modular hasn’t been more popular is a catch-22, said Tom O’Hara, a director at Capsys, who has been working with modular building for 30 years.

Conventional construction is a “design-bid-build” product whereas modular is a “design-build” product, so the developer really needs to be planning for modular from the very beginning. The catch is that there aren’t many modular designer-builders to begin with.

“If you put out a plan to build modularly, there aren’t a lot of people who can respond,” O’Hara said. “And so developers worry about whether they’re getting a competitive price.”

Still, much of Capsys’s work includes educating architects and developers on the capabilities of modular construction, which O’Hara said they are very receptive to.

Height Limitations
Height poses another perceived challenge. Atlantic Yards’ B2, its first residential tower of a planned 15, is set to be the world’s tallest modular structure at 32 stories, but is not free standing. The misconception is that above a certain height, the developer no longer saves money by using prefabrication.

“It’s not a cost issue, it’s an engineering issue,” O’Hara said.

Modular factories are built to produce a very specific product. Capsys, for instance, designed its factory to be cost competitive in delivering buildings up to 13 feet.

“And we could very easily have done a different system for a different type of modular,” O’Hara said. “We’ve built everything from two story townhouses to ten story buildings. But there are still some parameters there that we’ve designed into our system.”

Speedy Timeline
For some projects, there are very compelling reasons to go modular—for some, there just aren’t.

Construction quality and LEED certification are the basics, O’Hara said, but one example of an added bonus is timeline.

Prefabrication saves time and, more importantly, is able to deliver exactly on a specific opening date, which could be crucial to buildings like student dormitories or event housing.

With My Micro NY, for instance, fabrication will start about the same time the general contractor breaks ground. The first module will take about two weeks to go through the assembly line, O’Hara said, and after that one or two modules will come off the line every day.

“The project is around 60 modules so it really only takes a few weeks to build them all,” O’Hara said. “We’ll probably be able to build the modules faster than they can build the foundation.”

 

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/481474-modular-construction-takes-off-in-new-york/

The Capsys Micro-Unit Apartment project has drawn international attention

Two weeks ago we hosted a production team and film crew from FranceTV 2 for a tour of our manufacturing facility.  They were visiting NYC to report upon the growing global interest in smaller apartments for dense urban areas.  Our upcoming project “MyMicro NY” is a local response to this growing trend.

We thought we’d share the film with you – and we hope you are fluent in French!

Happy New Year!

 

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year of happiness and prosperity!

happy-new-year-2014-

Crain’s NY Says: New York’s Modular Moment Has Arrived

This is a nice survey article about all of the modular activity taking place in our city.  Thank you to Crain’s for publishing it.  We have just one small question:  If this is NYC’s modular moment, what have we been doing here for the last 17 years building 3,000,000 SF of modular buildings for NYC?  Just asking…  But hey, enjoy the article anyway.

 

 

New York’s modular moment arrives

Boomlet in projects using prebuilt units comes after many years of false starts.

BY  

modular apartments

 At the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, dozens of workers are laying the foundation for a 32-story apartment tower. They are excavating earth, bending rebar and pouring concrete, just as countless others are doing at construction sites around town.

Meanwhile, two miles away, in a factory the size of two football fields at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, dozens more are working on the same building, stacking drywall, uncrating toilets, and gathering pipes and spools of wire, all of which will be used to complete a total of 930 -trailer-size modules beginning next month. Those will then be trucked over to the Flatbush Avenue site, where they will be stacked to form 363 apartments ranging in size from 400-square-foot studios to 1,200-square-foot two-bedrooms.

“There’s no reason people couldn’t see this out their window very soon, whether they’re in Brooklyn, downtown or even the Upper East Side,” said Melissa Román Burch, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner and head of its Atlantic Yards project, where the first of more than a dozen modular towers is set to rise during the next decade or so.

Work is finally getting underway nearly three years after Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner was transfixed by a YouTube video of a 15-story hotel being assembled in China in just 46 hours. Now all eyes are on Atlantic Yards.

“Mod” installation there is set to begin this fall. It will be followed by similar, though smaller, projects ranging from a superstorm-proof townhouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to the Bloomberg administration’s much-touted micro-apartment building in Manhattan’s Kips Bay. All told, there are now more than 17 modular projects on file with the Department of Buildings, with more likely to come. The apparent advantages are clear: significant cost savings through faster construction, with less material waste—which also boosts the green factor.

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see how things turn out for Bruce,” said David Kramer, a principal at Hudson Cos., a developer with numerous affordable and high-end projects in the city.

Yet even as a growing number of builders line up to try their hand at modular, many others remain skeptical—and with good reason. The technique has been a dream of architects and developers for nearly a century—both Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright were high on it—yet little progress has been made since the idea of houses rolling off the assembly line like so many Model Ts was first dreamed up. After all, what is going up now is little different from Montreal’s famous Habitat 67, built for that city’s world’s fair 46 years ago.

Curiously, it is also a method of building that has been far more successful outside the city. In South Carolina, New Mexico and West Virginia, one in six homes is manufactured—a group that includes mobile homes—according to the Census Bureau. In New York state, it is one in 50, with most of those outside the city.

Small scale

Up until recently, what modular construction there has been in New York City has been on a small scale, mostly row houses for low-income families and seniors in the outer boroughs. The biggest such project to date is the Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses, in East New York, Brooklyn. There, blocks upon blocks of multicolored homes have been built and are now occupied. When the project is complete, 1,525 such homes, made of three modules each, will have been built by Capsys, a modular firm created three decades ago by Nicholas Lembo expressly for the project.

Like Mr. Ratner, Mr. Lembo embraced modular more out of necessity than design. “Cost was important, but it was also a matter of security,” he said. “Building conventionally, you’d come by at night and find people on-site stealing your materials.”

He estimates he has built more than 3 million square feet of modular buildings during the past two decades, including a convent for elderly nuns in the Bronx. All of it has rolled off the line of his facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The latest project will be the city’s so-called adAPT micro-units in Kips Bay, with 55 apartments as small as 250 square feet. Mr. Lembo won the project in a competition last year. Work is set to begin this fall.

The biggest factor driving modular’s newfound popularity is the city’s stratospheric construction costs. Modular offers a handful of ways to cut them by 20% to 30%.

Sheer speed accounts for much of those savings. By building in a factory, crews are protected from the elements, which allows them to work more efficiently, and without weather delays. It also keeps the materials protected and provides for easier quality control.

“You don’t have one subcontractor come in, lay the concrete, and then the plumber comes in the next day, says everything’s in the wrong place, and you have to do it again,” said Bill Flemming, president of Skanska USA, the national general contractor that has partnered with Forest City Ratner to create its modular factory.

Daunting logistics

Stack building
Out of the box: A rendering of the completed Stack building at 4857 Broadway.Photo: Gluck

Changes in labor contracts also promise to unlock big savings. Rather than employing individual tradesmen specializing in plumbing or electrical or drywall, workers in modular factories are trained to tackle multiple tasks. Forest City Ratner actually had an easier time working out the technical specifications of its towers than it did persuading the unions to agree to the special contract, though ultimately they did.

“Housing affordability is always a challenge, and the cost of construction is so incredibly high,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. “Any technology that can help reduce those costs is exciting and should be explored.”

What makes New York City’s gathering wave of modular housing so special is that all of the advantages—including cost savings—of the technique are being harnessed to produce taller and more sophisticated properties. The first residential tower in Atlantic Yards will top out at 32 stories, more than 50% higher than any modular tower ever built. At the same time, big-league architecture and engineering firms and their developer clients have been converted to the modular cause and are now stretching the technique in unprecedented ways both in terms of size and sheer aesthetics.

In Red Hook, for example, SHoP Architects, the designer of Mr. Ratner’s towers, has created a flood-resistant townhouse that can be fabricated and installed in less than three months. That is an unheard-of pace for any project in the city.

Yet for all the promises of modular, the drawbacks stubbornly persist. Trucking thousands of building modules weighing up to 25 tons and as wide as two Hummers is a challenge in a densely packed city like New York, one complicated by narrow side streets and aging bridges.

A case in point is 4857 Broadway, in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan. There, a partnership of Gluck+ architects and Jeffrey M. Brown Associates is building 28 apartments from 56 modules that are being fabricated in Pennsylvania.

The logistics are daunting, to say the least. Mr. Brown notes that if the complex were being built outside the city, as many as 12 modules could be installed in a day. Even with the benefit of an empty lot next door to store units before use, the team can still cart only four modules over the George Washington Bridge each day for installation.

Even financing a modular project can be more difficult. “What bank wants to take a flier on a project when, if it goes under, they’re left with a bunch of boxes stacked up in a warehouse somewhere, and they have no idea what to do with them?” Mr. Brown said. A more conventional site could be turned over to another builder, but a modular one, where the parts and plans are proprietary, is much harder.

“It’s not right for every site, that’s for sure,” said Capsys’ Mr. Lembo. “And you’ve got a lot of people out there who think it’s a silver bullet.”

Jerilyn Perine, director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, said the modular process must be fully vetted before it can be adopted citywide. “It’s like green buildings,” she said. “People can make claims about cost savings, but unless you study them, how can you be sure it’s real?”

Then again, green buildings were also once derided as a fad.

For Skanska’s Mr. Flemming, if the construction industry is to thrive in future decades, it must embrace modular. “Look at all the innovation of the past 40 years, in technology, health care, science and so on,” he said. “There’s been almost no innovation in the construction industry. We’re still building buildings much the same way we did decades ago.”

A version of this article appears in the July 22, 2013, print issue of Crain’s New York Business as “NY’s modular moment arrives”.

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130721/REAL_ESTATE/307219990

Page 1 of 3123