More Modular Buzz

IT’S A MOD, MOD, MOD, MOD WORLD

 

Forest City Ratner’s modular building in Brooklyn garnered big headlines last year, but aspects of modular construction are becoming increasingly common across the city–and the world

By Al Barbarino 7:00am

http://commercialobserver.com/

madworld

Two years ago, Bruce Ratner sought to ease a shrinking budget and appease swarms of critics who lambasted the original rendering for a residential tower at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn as a “Lego-like” atrocity.

Like a frustrated schoolboy, he punted the plans to erect a set of oddly arranged giant blocks, shoving designer Frank Gehry aside and bringing in a team of modular consultants who—ironically, given the reputation of modular buildings—transformed the blueprint into a much sleeker 32-story structure.

“It will be beautiful,” Mr. Ratner said at the groundbreaking last month. “You do not have to compromise on design when you build modular, and this building will prove that.”

The success of the B2 building, set to become the tallest modular building in the world, will serve as a catalyst for the growth of modular construction among high-rise and commercial buildings, a market that has exploded elsewhere in the world and that modular builders in the United States have hoped to tap into for years.

The project also highlights the growth of modular design across property types throughout New York City, as real estate companies look to trim costs and save time by incorporating modular methods into commercial buildings, using prefabricated façades, paneling, doors, roofing and computerized interfaces.

“There is no such thing as site building anymore,” said Tom O’Hara, director of business development at Capsys Corporation, a modular builder. “Every single site is using prefabricated construction. Something is componentized, whether it’s the roofing or the doors. Modular takes that one step further—it’s the zenith of that process.”

The 32-story, 363-apartment B2, which will almost rub up against the new Barclays Center, is one of 15 modular towers said to be coming to the site. Like other modular buildings, much of it is being manufactured in a factory setting, and it will eventually be hauled nearly two miles from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and snapped together on-site.

It’s unlikely that 32-story modular buildings will begin popping up across the city anytime soon, but Mr. Ratner’s decision shines a spotlight on a building method that has existed for decades.

Proponents of the method have treated modular design as gospel for years, and real estate industry professionals (even those not directly involved in modular building) agree that the cost and time savings afforded in smaller-scale projects translates into larger, taller buildings.

“It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the real estate industry, but I think that this building will change that,” said Amy Marks, owner and president of XSite Modular, the modular consultant on the Atlantic Yards project. “If you’re building a building today and not considering some sort of modular or prefab, you’re missing out on a tremendous value.”

Modular buildings consist of multiple sections, or modules, that are built in a remote facility and then delivered to a construction site and assembled. Because components are created in a factory setting, the method can save time, money and reduce water and energy consumption.

Modular builders procure less-expensive materials from a range of global distributors. While the controlled assembly line-like environment offers factory workers a steady 9 to 5, they are generally paid much less than their on-site counterparts. On-site carpenters earn as much as $50 more in wages and benefits, some experts said.

Consultants on the B2 project have said modular design will shave 10 months off of the 28-month construction schedule, and others said a fully modular design could cut the schedule by as much as 50 percent.

“Whether that means hospital are getting patients into beds sooner, or landlords getting tenants faster, that makes a big difference,” Ms. Marks said.

The B2 isn’t the first building to thrust modular design into the public eye. In 2009, a 24-story, $34 million high-rise dormitory was completed in Wolverhampton, England, in less than 12 months, becoming the tallest modular building in Europe. And several years ago, China set off a firestorm in the industry when it started building modular hotels and completing the projects in a matter of days.

The 902 modules used in the Wolverhampton tower and adjacent low-rise units were constructed in Cork, Ireland, before being transported to the construction site, culminating in 657 student bedrooms and 157 postgraduate apartments. The construction would have taken twice as long using conventional on-site methods, its developers said at the time.

The new 69,000-square-foot mid-rise Lehman College Science Building, designed by Perkins + Will, is another modular building drawing attention locally; it is expected to become the first LEED-certified building in the City University of New York system. The 13,000-square-foot Lehman College Child Care Center, designed by Garrison Architects and completed last year, is also modular.

But prefabrication techniques are also being incorporated into conventional buildings throughout New York City, even if the buildings’ structure itself isn’t modular, with builders using factories with lower costs to prefabricate kitchens, bathrooms, paneling and the like. Others are being built as hybrids between modular and conventional buildings.

For example, the Cambria Suites Hotel, being built by Capsys Corporation in White Plains, N.Y., will stack five modular hotel suites atop three site-built floors. Last summer, the firm also built the MacDougal Street Apartments, a six-story, 65-unit supportive housing facility at 330 MacDougal Street in Brooklyn—which took a total of 12 days to complete. The firm’s factory employs about 70 workers year round, five days a week.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, it doesn’t matter if it’s snowing. And all of their tools are right there. It’s very comfortable work compared to on-site construction work,” Mr. O’Hara said. “Those trade guys work hard and they earn their money … it’s hard being a trade guy. We try to streamline it and make it good work for people, make it comfortable.”

While modular building dates back at least a century, it gained national attention as troops returned home after World War II, when it became the preferred building method for housing in rural and suburban settings across the United States.

The 1960s and 1970s gave rise to more complicated designs as consumer demands became more sophisticated, and in the 1980s, even more intricate modular homes began to take shape across the Northeast, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and, to a lesser degree, New York.

“The New Jersey suburbs are full of beautiful, custom-designed houses that were executed in modular factories,” Mr. O’Hara said.

Slowly, modular seeped into the commercial industry, becoming popular for building low- to mid-rise structures—affordable housing, hospitals and other medical facilities, schools and office complexes—with companies like Capsys, Deluxe Building Systems and NRB among those paving the way in the Northeast.

But it was buildings like the one in Wolverhampton and those in China that highlighted the dreams of modular hopefuls and captured real estate’s collective psyche, slowly convincing developers like Mr. Ratner that modular is viable for high-rise buildings. Mr. Ratner admitted that a YouTube video of the 15-story Ark Hotel being erected in China in two days (the building was ultimately completed in six) was the last straw.

“That was the icing on the cake,” Mr. Ratner told The New York Observer in December 2012.

In December 2011, Broad Sustainable Building Corporation, the same company that built the Ark, completed the 183,000-square-foot, 30-story Tower Hotel just outside Yueyang in China’s Hunan Province in 15 days. It was reportedly built to withstand a magnitude-9.0 earthquake.

Given the space constraints in a city as densely packed as New York City, transporting modular buildings to certain parts of the city is simply impossible—and adding modular components into a renovation project can be a insurmountable challenge as well (imagine trying to haul four stories of a Midtown high-rise through the Holland Tunnel, or hoisting fully constructed kitchens into an existing office building).

But most agree that incorporating at least certain elements of modular design is beneficial, with firms across the city opening up to the idea.

“It’s something that needs to be embraced, just like any other option we have in our arsenal,” said Scott Spector, a principal at the architectural firm Spector Group. “I think there are pieces of it we can use, and we’ve definitely incorporated it, but it depends on the aesthetics and the type of space.”

Mr. Spector believes warehouse and suburban office environments are ideal for modular building. It also has its place in larger commercial buildings, in terms of sophisticated video teleconferencing or “telepresence” units, and for certain specialty conference rooms that incorporate glass partitioning not built on-site.

“You would never know it wasn’t built on-site with five different trades coming in,” Mr. Spector said. “Instead the panels are made in a factory … and there’s no way you can tell if it was done on-site.”

But Mr. Spector remains skeptical about its use in commercial high-rise buildings. The “menu” of options a modular builder can provide often do not fulfill the requirements of owners—or the creative aspirations of conventional architects, he said. It’s something like being limited to the dollar menu at McDonald’s—it’s definitely cheaper, but it’s not surf and turf.

“You lose the more detailed design and customization options, and that is one of the things that make modular design difficult in a commercial setting,” he said. “I just can’t tell you that they would give me all of the options that I want … it doesn’t lend itself to the type of architecture on these custom-designed office buildings being built in the city.”

Some union workers fear that the rise of modular skyscrapers could mean fewer hours as they’re replaced by factory workers. Forest City Ratner worked closely with New York City building trade unions to address those concerns, striking an agreement that B2’s fabrication facility will employ 125 union workers earning $55,000 per year (about 25 percent below the average construction wage).

The B2 agreement reflects an “innovative approach to development that will allow us to realize the vision of the Atlantic Yards project and create traditional construction jobs that may otherwise have been at risk,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, when the deal was announced.

Mr. O’Hara, the director of business development at Capsys Corporation, agreed.

“To a certain degree, our people used to work in the field,” he said. “There’s no reason a carpenter or electrician working in the field can’t come work for a company like ours.”

 http://commercialobserver.com/2013/01/its-a-mod-mod-mod-modular-world/

Sandy Reconstruction Considerations

Our prayers go out to those who have been affected by our recent hurricane Sandy disaster.  As people look toward rebuilding efforts, many folks have called us here at Capsys.  Modular construction is obviously stronger and inherently more “floor resistant” to use a FEMA phrase simply due to the suite of materials we use and to the strength we build into our modules due to our transport requirements.  However, more than just the materials to be used in the new structure need to be considered.  The supporting foundation system should also be modified when building in flood-prone areas.

We decided to post two documents here about both design considerations and about substructure considerations.  The first is a FEMA document published in 2008  entitled “FEMA Flood Resistant Materials” which discussed various options you might consider including in your reconstruction efforts.  The second is a reprint from “Structure Magazine” called FEMA 550 and is an article that attempts to interpret a very technical FEMA structural engineering document so we non-engineers can understand it.

 Please continue to call us with any questions you have and we will continue to try to assist our neighbors who received damage from Sandy.

FEMA 550

FEMA Flood Resistant Materials 2008 doc

Greenpoint Comfort Station in Brooklyn is Now Open to the Public.

 Check out the latest photos taken on January 2, 2013.

Happy New Year!

    Capsys team joins in sending warmest thoughts and best wishes

    for a wonderful and a very Happy New Year!

 

Luxury living can be achieved for all buildings with modular construcution!

“Hurricane Sandy Housing Lessons: How to build a Better Home”

Hurricane Sandy has brought misery to many folks in the NY, NJ area.  Many of us at Capsys had damage to our homes though thankfully our facilities were spared any significant damages.  As people begin to think about rebuilding, we think they should keep in mind the advantages modular construction can bring to the rebuilding process.  Many of these advantages are spoken to in the following article by Sheri Koones.  Sheri is the author of six books on home construction, four of them on prefabricated construction. She has won two Robert Bruss Gold Book awards by the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Her latest book, Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, was released in October.

http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/11/05/hurricane-sandy-housing-lessons-how-to-build-a-better-home/

NY1 about Modular Construction

 

By: Monica Brown

Modular construction may soon catch on in the city, but a Brooklyn factory has been building homes, floor to ceiling, for 16 years. NY1′s Monica Brown filed the following report.

 

Modular construction can have a house almost entirely built in a factory. The pieces are brought on trucks to their final destination, and the finishing touches can be done on-site. This method could mean big cost savings for the Big Apple, where experts say construction costs are skyrocketing.

“Housing is becoming out of reach for too many New Yorkers,” says New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson. “And if this could bring down the cost somewhat, then a significant sector of the New York City population might have a chance to buy or to rent an apartment.”

In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Capsys Corp. has been building modular homes for 16 years in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Its affordable housing units, assisted living facilities, hotels and more other buildings are dropped off at sites in all five boroughs and beyond.

Company officials say the average savings can be 5 to 20 percent with modular construction, and that business has been picking up a lot in the last several years.

“Some of that is because we’re coming out of the recession and we’re seeing more activity, but a lot of is it really is just catching on. We like to say that we’re the oldest brand-new idea in construction,” says Tom O’Hara, the director of marketing at Capsys.

Forest City Ratner Corporation might also be trying to change minds. It announced last year that it may look to build the world’s largest modular tower at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The company declined to be interviewed for this story.

But New York Building Congress officials tell NY1 that project, and other modulars like it, might go a long way toward helping to keep New York’s building industry competitive.

“Innovation in the construction industry is always important because we’re the highest cost construction market in the country, and we are encouraging our members to look for ways to economize, to look to do things differently, and in a better way,” says Anderson.

http://www.ny1.com/content/ny1_living/real_estate/170975/bit-by-bit–builders-come-to-appreciate-modular-construction

 

Ashburton Ave. Project Receives LEED Gold Status!

H2M designs 49-unit prop. for The Richmond Group; Langan Eng., Monadnock, S. Winter assist

 
110 Ashburton Avenue - Yonkers, NY
 
 

 

110 Ashburton Avenue - Yonkers, NY

 

 

 

 

 

Yonkers, NY H2M architects + engineers designed a multi-story, multifamily property for The Richmond Group Development Corp. at 110 Ashburton Ave. The undeveloped site has now become a building with 49 residential units.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) completed its final review of the building confirming the building has LEED Gold status for its design, development and construction. The building actually has two new labels: LEED Gold Certified and Energy Star.

A traditional design would include insulation on the interior structure of the building only and not both the inside and outside. What makes this design green and sustainable is the design of various levels of insulation in the building envelope-both the wrap and the building cavity where insulated to control air infiltration and heat loss and to continue the air barrier across both the inside to the outside. The windows are equipped with high-efficiency glazing that controls heat loss and gain. The design called for a white roofing system with high solar reflectance properties and high-efficiency mechanical systems and finishes with high levels of recycled content.

H2M was the architect and mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer and the structural engineer on the project and partnered with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Forum, and Capsys Corp. Monadnock Construction was the general contractor on the project and Stephen Winter Associates was the green building consultant.

http://nyrej.com/57252

NYREJ, Westchester County, August 28 – September 10, 2012

 

See Also:

http://www.capsyscorp.com/nextlevelbuilding/?p=182

http://www.capsyscorp.com/nextlevelbuilding/?p=701

http://www.capsyscorp.com/nextlevelbuilding/?p=639

Modular Supportive Housing Website!

We are happy to announce our new website specifically focused on Modular Supportive Housing!

http://www.nysupportivehousing.com/

 

Daily News about Nehemiah Spring Creek

Spring Creek Nehemiah is an affordable housing success story in East New York 

 

The development off Flatlands Ave. is home is home to 233 first-time homeowners who won the right to live there via lottery.

 

By / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, July 27, 2012, 11:43 AM

 
The Spring Creek Nehemiah development in East New York  has provided affordable houses and apartments to the many residents of the community.

Aaron Showalter/for New York Daily News

Spring Creek Nehemiah is East New York is one of the city’s great housing success stories. Already, 233 first-time owners have moved into these well-designed townhomes.

 

Linda Boyce says it happens all the time. People turn off Flatlands Ave. in East New York, Brooklyn, and slowly cruise Linwood, Vandalia, and Egan Sts. They look around, admiring multi-colored boxy houses with big backyards, private driveways, and patches of front gardens.

“Someone always asks ‘How can I live here?’ ” says Boyce, a member of the first Homeowner Association at Nehemiah Spring Creek, one of the city’s largest affordable homeowning developments and a national model for affordable housing programs. “That makes us proud. We work hard to keep this neighborhood clean and safe. Sometimes I forget I’m in Brooklyn.”

In what is the city’s newest neighborhood, Spring Creek Nehemiah (as residents call it) is 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.

NEHEMIAH27BPW_2_WEB

Aaron Showalter for New York Daily News

From left, proud Nehemiah owners Milagros Gerez, Walja Moody, Linda Boyce, organizer Grand Lindsay, Roxanne Thomas, Elizabeth Daniel, and Dawn Brown.

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.

PHOTOS: An insider’s guide to New Lots Ave., Brooklyn

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.

Boyce and her fellow homeowners are part of phase one. They work hard daily to ensure their streets, homes and neighborhood stay safe and clean.

NEHEMIAH27BPW_1_WEB

Aaron Showalter for New York Daily News

Linda Boyce shows off her kitchen in a Spring Creek Nehemiah home.

As you enter the area dominated by the Nehemiah prefab houses, it has the feel of newness. It’s cleaner than a hospital. On a quiet and hot Saturday, it feels like a movie set. But life lives inside these homes. Some people have pools, others gardens and outdoor patios with Southern smokers. People on the streets say hello to one another. They stop to talk about meetings, fairs, the new school and construction phases

Grant Lindsay, an organizer for East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC), knows a tight-knit neighborhood has more power combating local problems.

“Our job just doesn’t stop when people move in,” says Lindsay, who has helped EBC members empower themsleves in Brownsville, East New York and Bushwick. “That’s when it starts. We help work together to achieve their needs. Often big government and landlords take advantage of people. We don’t want that to happen. At Nehemiah, we want to build a strong community. This is a place that looks out after each other and is proactive in seeking change. A home is just a home. A neighborhood takes relationships.”

NEHEMIAH27BPW_5_WEB

Aaron Showalter for New York Daily News

A row of three-family houses on the edge of the development. Construction on phase-two homes has already began. Fifty new homeowners will move in shortly.

Block by block, Lindsay works with homeowners to set up monthly meetings. Already they have rallied to make crossing Flatlands Ave. safer for seniors and worked to establish a relationship with the Academy for Young Writers, the high school moving from Williamsburg to East New York this fall.

“We make things happen ourselves,” says Roxanne Thomas, owner of a three-family house. “I live across from an empty lot where they are going to build. People used to ride dirt bikes there. It was noisy. I worked with police to ask them to leave. The block is quiet again.”

NEHEMIAH27BPW_10_WEB
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(At left, two-familyhomes have bay windows and modern stoops; Photo: Aaron Showalter for New York Daily News)

Dawn Brown lives across the street from a football field that serves as a practice and game-day facility for Thomas Jefferson High School. The single mom jokes about her master bedroom being the “mistress bedroom.” Taking pride inside and outside the home, Brown cuts the grass along the practice field fence herself.

“It just looks better,” she says. “We want this to be an inspiration for the entire area. You won’t see spray paint here. You don’t hear loud music. People respect each other here.”

More than respect, homeownership in Spring Creek Nehemiah reaches spiritual heights.

Homeowner Elizabeth Daniel got burned in a Canarsie foreclosure scandal, losing a down payment. Her grandmother instilled in her the goal of homeownership. She started saving again, and received word in 2010 that she had won the right to own a home in Nehemiah. Daniel lives in a two-family with her husband. She loves the bay window and placement on her home on Vandalia St.

“Every day I stop for a moment to thank God for being here,” says Daniel, who works in higher education. “I’m going to make the most of it. We’re going to make sure this place is the best it can be.” Walja Moody came to New York from Alabama. She forgot she applied for a Nehemiah home until 14 years later when the application arrived.

“I had just been divorced,” she says. “I was head of the household and thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ ” she says. “It’s very fulfilling to be part of a community that is growing and evolving. We are all in this together here. We are not rich people. These homes and this neighborhood are our lives.”

A philosophical architect with a conscious, Alexander Gorlin was aware of the importance architecture would have in the community. He and his firm have been working on the project for 12 years. Gorlin’s take on the updated brownstone for middle-class New Yorkers was honored in an exhibition on prefab houses at the Museum of Modern Art. It feels “heartening,” he says, to walk Nehemiah today.

“You feel the power of architecture at work creating a beautiful place for people to live,” says Gorlin. “There is such attention to detail, like that in a wealthy person’s home, that in ways it confirms that the people who live here are important. All the homes are not alike. They allow for individuality in a communal setting. I think that helps it work.”

Boyce, who has a corner one-family across from the new school, redesigned her kitchen with granite countertops and custom-made cabinetry. She redid her floors a darker wood.

“I had a niece come to visit, and from the outside she said it looked so small,” says Boyce. “When she came in, she couldn’t believe how big it is. When the school opens, it will be wonderful to hear children laughing and playing. We’re working to see how we can help them.”

Set to open in September, the educational structure will house three schools: the Academy for Young Writers, where 60% to 80% of the students live in East New York and Brownsville; the Spring Creek Community School, which starts at sixth grade, and P53K for special-needs students. The high school’s principal, Courtney Winkfield, sees a link between the neighborhood and the school.

“We chose to be in this neighborhood,” says Winkfield, whose school was formerly housed in a Williamsburg walkup with electrical wiring so old multiple computers couldn’t power up. “Not only is it where our students live, it’s a place with strong spirit. We’re discussing mentorship programs to stay connected to our neighbors. The people at Nehemiah are pioneering a new area.”

For EBC, the drive for quality housing and empowered community is constant.

“The homes we build are named after the Old Testament figure Nehemiah, who helped rebuild Jerusalem after it had been destroyed,” says Lindsay. “With each home, we try to embody that same spirit of hope in the face of despair. It’s ironic. This is one of the signature achievements of the Bloomberg third term, but the mayor hasn’t been here. We hope he comes to see this.”

YOU SHOULD KNOW

What: Nehemiah Spring Creek, an affordable housing success story in East New York. Phase three homes start at $190,000 with about $10K down.

Where: Near Gateway Plaza Mall off Flatlands Ave. Take the 3 train to New Lots Ave. and the B6 to Nehemiah Spring Creek near Linwood St.

How: Go to nyc.gov/hpd for lottery info. For more on East Brooklyn Congregations, go to ebc-iaf.org.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/spring-creek-nehemiah-affordable-housing-success-story-east-new-york-article-1.1123089?pgno=2#ixzz226l0rWYB

 

See also:

http://www.capsyscorp.com/nextlevelbuilding/?p=814