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
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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!
Recently we were fortunate enough to be a participant in the Modular Building Institute’s annual meeting they call the World of Modular held in mid-March in Scottsdale, AZ. It was good to meet with over 540 of our colleagues working in the Modular building industry from across the US, Canada, Mexico Europe and China. We shared many ideas and took away several new bits of wisdom.
While there, our Director for Construction Services, Dave Parlo and I gave a presentation about our winning entry – MyMicro NY – in the NY HPD RFP contest to design and build micro apartments in lower Manhattan. This project has generated a lot of industry buzz and we were proud to share with our colleagues a little about that project and about how well received Modular Construction is in New York these days.
At this conference, MBI unveiled several willing entries in their annual search for innovative ways to use modular construction to solve specific project parameters. We thought you might like to see some of these winning entries. The like below is to an article placed by our friends a Building Design + Construction at their website. Enjoy.
The Linwood Street building, which is one out of three buildings of our Cypress Village project, was erected in just one day! Joined by the owner and architect plus the local neighborhood residents, I watched in amazement as the building was set in place so quickly. This is just another example of the many important benefits of modular construction.
This rendering is of our next project, Cypress Village. Magnusson Architecture and Planning designed this beautiful building. Cypress Village is being built by Capsys for the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. This project will contain two buildings – one on Linwood Ave. and one at Jerome Street both in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. It will contain eighteen, two bedroom apartment flats. Each 940 SF flat is wholly contained within one 20 foot wide by 47 foot long module – the largest we have ever constructed We’ll post erection photos soon so you can see these big guys flying into position. It should be quite a show.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES WINNER OF adAPT NYCCOMPETITION TO DEVELOP INNOVATIVE MICRO-UNIT APARTMENT HOUSING MODEL
Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS Will Build City’s First Micro-Unit Apartment Building Using Innovative Design and Modular Construction
40 Percent of 55 New Units in ‘My Micro NY’ at 335 East 27th Street Will be Available to Low- and Middle-Income New Yorkers
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel and Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua announced today that the winner of the adAPT NYC Competition is a development team composed of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS. The development team was chosen through a competitive Request for Proposals to design, construct and operate the city’s first micro-unit apartment building on a City-owned site at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan. The development team’s ‘My Micro NY’ project will create 55 new micro-units, 40 percent of which will be affordable beyond the competitive market rents, that are designed to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness. ‘My Micro NY’ will be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan developed using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Mayor made the announcement at the Museum of the City of New York and was joined by Monadnock Development president Nicholas Lembo, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation president Scott Weiner and nARCHITECTS principal Eric Bunge.
“New York’s ability to adapt with changing times is what made us the world’s greatest city – and it’s going to be what keeps us strong in the 21st Century,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations.”
adAPT NYC is a pilot program that was launched in July 2012 through a Request for Proposals to develop a new model of housing – micro-units. The proposals were evaluated on several criteria, including innovative micro-unit layout and building design. The ‘My Micro NY’ proposal excelled in this category, with features like generous 9’-10” floor-to-ceiling heights and Juliette balconies that provide substantial access to light and air. The micro-units developed as part of this pilot will measure between 250 and 370 square feet.
“Mayor Bloomberg is committed to expanding the housing options available to New Yorkers, and with the results of the adAPT project we’ve clearly seen that developers believe there is a robust market for smaller apartment sizes,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “Today’s announcement is a milestone for new housing models.”
“The remarkable number of high-quality responses to the adAPT NYC RFP validates the position that developing micro-unit living is both financially and physically feasible in the New York City landscape,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “Monadnock, nARCHITECTS and the Actors Fund HDC came through with an inventive and striking interpretation of the micro-unit concept. The team’s ‘My Micro NY’ proposal is reflective of our objectives and signifies tremendous promise for this housing model. Remarkable things can be accomplished when thinking carefully about how people live and how we can program small spaces to integrate individuals’ lifestyles with common, or shared, space. This is the result when government acts as a catalyst for private sector innovation.”
“The Monadnock proposal is compelling because it clearly demonstrates how careful planning and design innovation can transform a building into a community and a small unit into a home”, said Planning Commissioner Burden. “The adAPT RFP fulfills its promise by providing a tangible new housing option, which has the potential to broaden housing choices for New Yorkers.”
“Our buildings should be built to meet the needs of New Yorkers, and as our population continues to grow and evolve, so must our housing stock,” said Commissioner LiMandri. “The Monadnock proposal is a fresh, innovative design that recognizes the changes in how we live as a society and presents a safe, reasonable housing option for those who want to call New York City home.”
Designed by nARCHITECTS, ‘My Micro NY’ is an elegant building distinguished by the creative use of setbacks and subtle changes in the color of the brick cladding. A multi-purpose and transparently-glazed space on the ground floor will be programed for rehearsals, performances, lectures and other creative activities, in addition to a café. Inside, the efficient apartment design includes ample storage, such as a 16’-long overhead loft space and a full-depth closet. Compact kitchens contain a full-height pull-out pantry, a full-height fridge, range, and space for a convection microwave. The property will include amenities that invite resident interaction, such as an attic garden, a ground-floor porch with picnic tables, den areas, and a multi-purpose lounge. Programmed interior space comprises 18 percent of the building’s gross square footage. The building will also have a laundry room, residential storage, a bike room, and fitness space.
While the variation in unit sizes and configuration is efficiently limited, minor shifts in the building’s volume, and changes in orientation of units, and location and type of windows generate spatial diversity. Each unit is comprised of two distinct zones: a ‘toolbox’ containing a kitchen, bathroom and storage and a ‘canvas’ providing ample, well-proportioned flexible space allowing for individual expression, and serving as the primary living and sleeping area. ‘My Micro NY’ unites a spectrum of scales ranging from efficiently designed kitchens to the organization of the apartments and common space, all in a simple yet iconic building.
The property will include common spaces with amenities which also emphasize a creative use of space, including a rooftop garden, shared lounge areas on nearly every floor to invite resident interaction, and an 8th floor deck for socializing or group fitness activities that has an additional multi-purpose lounge that can seat twenty for dinner or up to forty for a standing room event. The ‘My Micro NY’ building will also have a laundry room, a storage room, a bike room, and a fitness room.
Highly-skilled workers will prefabricate the building modules at Capsys’s indoor facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Capsys is the first NYC-approved manufacturer of prefabricated modules. After site work, foundations, utilities, and the construction of the ground floor is completed using traditional methods, the modules would arrive on the site with fixtures and finishes already installed. The modules would be hoisted into place in approximately two weeks and the brick facades would be built on the development site. Residents are expected to move in by September 2015.
“We are grateful to the City and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for selecting our proposal from such a competitive pool,” said Alphonse Lembo of Monadnock. “We’ve built market-rate and affordable housing in the five boroughs that have given people places to live and make memories, but this is an important opportunity to change the way we think about living space in an urban setting.”
“We are proud to be a member of the development team selected by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to be at the vanguard of implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s vision to provide a new and innovative option for attractive affordable housing that responds to the changing demographics and preferences of New York City’s residents,” said Scott Weiner, President of the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation.
“We’re thrilled at the chance of designing a housing prototype that will give New Yorkers in small spaces a sense of living in a larger social fabric” said Eric Bunge, Principal of nARCHITECTS.
The ‘My Micro NY’ building will provide housing to one- and two-person households across a variety of incomes. Twenty percent of the apartments (eleven units) will be reserved for households with incomes not exceeding 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI); nine percent (5 units) will be reserved for households with incomes not exceeding 145 percent of AMI; and eleven percent (6 units) will be reserved for households with incomes not exceeding 155 percent of AMI. The remainder of the units will be market rate, along with one superintendent’s unit. The development team was able to achieve affordability in the micro-units for low- and middle-income households without utilizing any direct City subsidy or financing, in part through its use of the modular design, which can significantly reduce a project schedule, resulting in savings on financing and conventional construction costs.
While reviewing the proposals, the City consulted with members of the adAPT NYC Advisory Board, which was created last year. The Board is composed of 12 leaders in architecture and design, housing, and economic development and was assembled to provide feedback on top proposals. Committee members include:
Barry Bergdoll, Chief Curator of Architecture & Design, Museum of Modern Art
Rafael Cestero, President and CEO, Community Preservation Corporation
Tom Eich, Partner, IDEO
Paul Goldberger, Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair
Toni Griffin, Professor of Architecture and Director, J. Max Bond Center at City College of New York
Robert Hammond, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Friends of the High Line
Bjarke Ingels, Architect and Founding Partner, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Janel Laban, Executive Editor, Apartment Therapy
Maya Lin, Artist, Maya Lin Studio
Richard Plunz, Director of the Urban Design Program, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Robert Selsam, Senior Vice President, Boston Properties
Christian Siriano, Fashion Designer, Christian Siriano
The winning proposal and four other notable proposals will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers. The exhibit, which is co-presented by the Museum and the Citizens Housing & Planning Council, features creative ideas for how to accommodate the changing demographics of New York City’s population.
“With this exhibition, the Museum of the City of New York and the Citizens Housing & Planning Council are giving New Yorkers a glimpse into the future of housing in our city,” said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “We are excited to showcase proposals from the adAPT NYCCompetition and to foster a discussion of solutions to the city’s emerging housing needs.”
The adAPT NYC Competition was created to introduce additional choices within New York City’s housing market to accommodate the city’s growing population of one- and two-person households.Currently New York City has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but only one million studios and one-bedrooms. The City’s housing codes have not kept up with its changing population, and currently do not allow an entire building of micro-units. Under this pilot program, Mayor Bloomberg will waive certain zoning regulations at a City-owned site at 335 East 27th Street to test the market for this new housing model. The adAPT NYC RFP was downloaded more than 1,600 times in hundreds of cities domestically and abroad, and generated 33 proposals by the submission deadline – making this the largest response received by HPD for a housing project. It is expected that the project will complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for disposition of City-owned land in the fall and break ground on construction at the end of 2013.
The adAPT NYC initiative is part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan. The New Housing Marketplace Plan is a multi-billion dollar initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of Fiscal Year 2014. To date, every dollar invested by the City, the Plan has leveraged $3.42 in private funding for a total commitment of more than $20 billion to fund the creation or preservation of over 140,920 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs.