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November 19, 2011

How About That Modular Construction?

The proposed use of modular construction on the Atlantic Yards project site is likely a gambit being used to wring concessions from construction unions. But would current modular construction technology permit a 32-story modular building?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Modular Experts Comment On Ratner Highrise Plan
by Raanan Geberer

James Garrison, assistant adjunct professor at Pratt Institute and principal of Garrison Architects isn't very definite about the the possibility of tall modular buildings.

The use of this technology in Atlantic Yards, he said, would be a challenge because of the building’s height. “Tall buildings have to have significant wind and seismic earthquake loads, and because of that, they tend to have a very strong structure.

Treehugger, World's Tallest Prefab To Be Built in Brooklyn? Fuggedaboutit.
By Lloyd Alter

The title of this article leaves no doubt as to what conclusion has been reached.

The whole thing boggles the mind. Having worked in prefab for a number of years, I can tell you that it's complicated, more than just piling up boxes like Lego. To have changes in builders and architects, intellectual property battles, and fights with unions in a City like New York while trying to build the world's tallest prefab and save time and money? Fuggedaboutit.

Atlantic Yards Report, A statement from Council Member Letitia James on the modular issue

A statement by Council Member Letitia James on Forest City Ratner’s plan to use Prefabricated Steel on Towers at Atlantic Yards project:

“The use of prefabricated steel ‘modular construction’ to build apartment towers as a part of Atlantic Yards is another despicable slight to the community surrounding the project by eliminating more crucial jobs for residents, as well as possibly creating less sound structures in an attempt to cut costs, all while FCRC has received City and State subsidies for the development. Past experience has also shown that designing a ‘bracing system’ for prefabricated steel buildings to protect against storms has been challenging. Bruce Ratner does have an obligation to support the community he serves by providing employment opportunities, as well as to parallel the safety of these buildings with those around the footprint that have weathered more than 100 years.”

It will be interesting to see how the city and state confirm that high-rise construction with modules and a steel frame will work at the planned, experimental height.

And there's a lot more James could say, notably regarding how Ratner could claim that it's impossible to build high-rise affordable apartment buildings with union labor, and how the city seems to be learning how to do deals better.

Posted by steve at November 19, 2011 10:34 PM