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Size Matters

For MyMicro NY our latest modular project, size really does matter.  See what the experts have to say in this article.

Does size matter?

Architects are trying to convince New Yorkers that tiny apartments are the next big thing

April 28, 2015 01:35PM
By Konrad Putzier


Ask any New Yorker about their biggest grievances, and living in a shoebox will likely be near the top of the list. Young Manhattanites tend to talk about their space-starved living situations much like one’s grandparents talk about the war – all despair and deprivation.

But here’s a thought: what if smaller apartments actually make for better living?

At a panel hosted by the American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter Monday night, three young architects tried to make the case that micro-apartments are not just a possible solution to New York’s affordability crisis, but also fun to live in.

“For people coming fresh to the city, the first thing has always been to find a roommate and move to Bushwick,” said Michael Kim, an architect at ARExA. “But here you’re looking at market-rate units that are located in the city and offer very comfortable living and basic common spaces.”

The trick, according to the panelists, is to design micro-apartments in a way that makes them “as humane as possible.” Eric Bunge’s firm nARCHITECTS designed Monadnock Development’s 55-unit micro-apartment building My Micro NY, which is under construction at 335 East 27th Street in Kips Bay. The units average 286 square feet, but come with 10-foot ceilings and large windows in an attempt to make them feel less stuffy. “These units can actually feel very spacious,” Bunge said.

A 240-square-foot micro-apartment (Credit: Tim Seggerman)

Perhaps more important to the livability of micro units is common space, according to the panelists. Michael Kim took Brooklyn’s brownstone stoops as an inspiration for the corridors in a micro-unit building he is designing. They will offer space to sit and hang out with neighbors. And while some may consider common kitchens a nuisance, Kim believes they are actually a fun place to meet people.

The panelists insisted this kind of shared living holds appeal in the age of Zipcar and Citibike. “The micro-unit definitely lends itself to a specific population where sharing is actually a social and communal benefit,” said Miriam Peterson, a partner at Peterson Rich Office.

Still, they acknowledged that more communal space could also create its own problems. One is safety. “Something we’ve encountered time and again with our NYCHA work is how potentially dangerous shared space is,” said Peterson. “Who has ownership over them and what are the views within a population to actually share things?”

A member of the audience took the point further, asking if shared living might imperil diversity within buildings, as people tend to prefer sharing spaces with people that are like them. No one seemed to have an answer, although ARExA’s Kim suggested that “maybe ultimately there needs to be someone who oversees the schedule” for common spaces.

In the end, the panel left listeners with a sense that micro living may be the future, but that a cultural shift is needed for it to really take off. Comparing New York to denser cities like Tokyo, Eric Bunge said, “we have a different kind of DNA in terms of how much space we need. But this is something that eventually has to change.”


Latest Project by Capsys

Our Micro-Apartment project MyMicroNY is soon to be a reality.  We’d like to thank Ondel Hylton for the following article describing


City’s First Micro-Apartment Project ‘MY Micro NY’ Ready for Stacking





Just in time for Earth Day, New York’s first micro-unit apartment building, dubbed My Micro NY, is entering its final construction phase. When finished later this year, urbanites will have a chance to live within the center of the city in a brand new building flush with amenities, all for under $3,000. Developed byMonadnock Development and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the soon-to-be-nine-story structure wrapped up foundation work this past winter, and a one-story steel platform is ready to receive 55 modular units.

The units are currently being built off-site at the Brooklyn Navy Yard by a team of 50 workers. In late May, the units will be shipped to the Gramercy Park lot at 335 East 27th Street where they will be stacked and bolted together along with stairs, an elevator, and other shared spaces.

NYCHPD, Monadnock, My Micro NY, Micro-Apartments, Earth Day, nArchitects, modular construction

Responding to smaller household sizes and the city’s enormous demand for housing units, the My Micro NY pilot program was spearheaded by former mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012 as a pilot towards adjusting the city’s building codes to allow smaller units. The city’s minimum legal apartment size is 400 square feet, while studios at My Micro NY will range from 260 to 360 square feet. It’s also seen as a way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

NYCHPD, Monadnock, My Micro NY, Micro-Apartments, Earth Day, nArchitects, modular construction

Micro-apartment supporters say that the success of small living quarters relies on intelligent design and proximity to social venues. My Micro NY’s designers, Brooklyn-based nARCHITECTS, simulate spaciousness with 9-foot-8-inch floor-to-ceiling heights and Juliet balconies with laminated glass guardrails to optimize natural lighting. There will be ample storage lofts and full-depth closets. Kitchens will include a fold-down table/counter, full-height pull-out pantry, full-size fridge, a range, and room for a convection microwave. Building amenities will include a gym, small lounge, community room, shared roof terrace, bicycle and tenant storage, and an outdoor garden.

MyMicroNYC Gramercy Micro-Apartments, Bloomberg, Earth Day 2 (8)
Renderings courtesy of nARCHITECTS

Not only innovative for its cozy layouts, the $17 million, 35,000-square-foot project will only be the city’s second prefabricated apartment building, after the Stack in Inwood; and it will be the city’s largest until Pacific Park’s (Atlantic Yards) 461 Dean Street debuts next year. The project developer, Tobias Oriwol, toldAMNewYork that units will be priced at approximately $3,000 a month and twenty-two of the 55 homes will be designated affordable​ for low- and middle-income households.

335 East 27th Street, MY Micro NY, NYC micro apartments
Aerial view of the site via CityRealty

Follow updates for My Micro NY at CityRealty

Reporting contributed by Heather Cooper Vivares



Modular Construction in Australia: They get it!

The subtitle of this article from Australia is: “The use of off-site manufactured products in construction could probably have the single biggest impact on construction efficiency improvement of any method in this country provided it was widely implemented.”  We think the same could be said for the U.S.  Read this and see what you think.


Home Shrunken Home

Hold your stomach in! Mini-apartments may be one way to solve New York’s housing shortage.




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


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


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.


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.

More Nehemiah Spring Creek Homes Are On The Way

We are currently finishing up the first grouping of homes for the next phase of Nehemiah’s Spring Creek project.  The attached is an informative piece describing the continuing Spring Creek housing project as it appears at the website of the Project Architect Alexander Gorlin.


“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.


Concern Amityville Veteran’s Housing, Amityville, NY

Concern Amityville