MBI Response on B2/Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Project
By now, many of you have heard about the recent set-backs on the modular high-rise project in Brooklyn, known as B2, Atlantic Yards, or Pacific Park, after its summer rebranding. Slated to be the tallest modular building in the world when completed, the project has been plagued by lawsuits, delays, and now cost overruns. Before we all give up on modular construction and go back the “the way we’ve always done it” let’s consider a few things:
By virtually any source, the level of productivity within the construction industry has been flat (or according many, declining) for the past forty years. This is despite significant gains in other industries over the same period. There are several reason for this decline including a lack of innovation and investment in research. Many construction companies are small and don’t have the capital or time to invest in new technologies, ideas, or research. So when new ideas come along, the industry gets defensive and rallies to protect the status quo. The construction industry FEARS change!
Modular construction is not a radical new idea. It has been successfully used for decades by some of the best known companies and for some of the most iconic buildings ever constructed. Using modular construction in the 1960s, Zachry Construction built the 21-story Hilton Hotel in the San Antonio Riverwalk, still in use today. That structure remains the tallest modular building in North America. Disney used modular construction for its legendary Contemporary and Polynesian resorts in the early 1970s. Since then, countless other owners, developers, and franchisees have successfully incorporated modular construction into their projects.
So why the fuss now? Neither Forrest City nor Skanska are members of the Modular Building Institute so we cannot speak on their behalf; nor can we speak to the specifics of what is happening on this project. But we can ask, “Would these cost overruns still have happened if the project were built conventionally?” Are these problems attributable to modular construction? Or more likely due to some combination of poor communication, poor planning, a lack of experience with modular, and failed execution?” These problem would spell doom for any project!
As the spokespeople for the modular construction industry what we can say is: When executed properly, this process is more resource-efficient and reduces the overall construction schedule compared to a comparable site-built project, period!
What we do know about this project is that it was “unconventional” even for the modular industry. The developer chose to create a new modular company with the contractor, rather than working with established and experienced modular manufacturers (including one located in Brooklyn).
The team also decided to have the steel “shells” fabricated over 400 miles from the site, shipped to another facility in Brooklyn for finish-out, then transported to the final location for installation. This decision no doubt added to the costs, logistics, and time.
We also know that the established construction industry “greeted” this project with nothing but obstacles, lawsuits, and challenges at every step in an effort to protect the status quo.
As a side-note, as B2 sits right now, unfinished, this is STILL the tallest modular building constructed in North America in the last 40 years! Forrest City should still be considered an innovator and a leader for being bold enough to propose constructing the tallest modular building in the world in an industry and location not generally conducive or accommodating to new ways of thinking.
To quote Henry Ford, “One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities.”
Started on August 29, 2014 by Tom Hardiman