Modular Building Institute
Modular Building Institute

New York City Turns to Modular Construction to Solve Housing Needs

On the heels of the ground breaking for the revolutionary 32-story modular B2 residential tower at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced an innovative new modular project for Manhattan. The My Micro NY project, the winner of the adAPT NYC Competition that called for designing, constructing and operating the city’s first micro-unit apartment building, will create 55 micro apartments from modules prefabricated by Capsys Corporation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The development team is composed of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS.

During the Jan. 22, 2013, announcement, Bloomberg praised modular construction for the benefits it will bring to the project. “Modular construction…is faster, less expensive, allows for high levels of quality control and significantly reduces waste and truck traffic. It’s also safer for workers as construction is done inside in controlled environments,” he said.

Though the micro apartments are small by typical apartment standards – between 270 and 350 feet – they are designed to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness. Features include 9- and 10-foot ceilings, a 16-foot-long overhead loft space, Juliette balconies, ample hidden storage space, and numerous common areas to encourage resident interaction.

The small size enables the city to help resolve increased demand for one- and two-person homes within a town that has limited space to grow.

Though the My Micro project incorporates new technology to make a small space more livable, New York is no stranger to modular construction itself. In the mid 80's through early 90's, the Pennsylvania-based DeLuxe Building Systems developed and built thousands of urban infill housing units for the city. Their latest project is a seven-story upscale apartment rental building on Broadway in the Inwood section of Manhattan, being developed by Jeffrey M Brown Associates.

Jeff Brown, CEO of the development firm, explained the choice to use modular. “I have always thought that modular makes a great deal of sense. There is time savings, improved quality and cost control. It is more sustainable – more efficient, cleaner and has less waste,” he said.

Because of the cost savings associated with modular construction’s reduced site waste and expedited building schedule, My Micro NY and the B2 Brooklyn tower will include designated affordable housing units. Forty percent of the My Micro NY units will be below competitive market rents, and 50 percent of the 362 apartments in B2 will be set aside as affordable.

The Process

For the micro apartments, highly-skilled workers will prefabricate the building modules at Capsys’ indoor facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After site work, foundations, utilities, and the construction of the ground floor is completed using traditional methods, the modules will arrive on the site complete with fixtures and finishes. The mods will be craned into place in about two weeks, and the brick facades will be built on the development site. Residents are expected to move in by September 2015.

Site work has begun on the Inwood project, and modules will be craned in place starting late February. Once the project is fully completed – around the end of summer 2013 – the 28-unit building will house a mix of upscale studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

Construction is set to begin in April of this year for B2, the first of 15 planned modular buildings at the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project from Forest City Ratner Companies. Steel modules will be fabricated by Banker Steel of Lynchburg, Va., and then moved to a factory in Brooklyn Navy Yard, where 125 workers from FCS Modular – a new company formed by Forest City Ratner and the building company Skanska – will complete the units to an almost live-in-ready status before they are trucked to the site and stacked to form what is believed to be, when complete, the tallest modular building in the world.

In response to the interest in modular building in New York, the Modular Building Institute and Pratt Institute School of Architecture will co-host a Modular Construction Summit in Brooklyn, New York on May 16, 2013, to help distinguish fact from fiction on this construction process.

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