Modular Construction Becomes a Winner in Manhattan

Building at Inwood

Photo – Courtesy of Peter Gluck and Partners Architects and Jeffery M Brown Associates, LLC

The use of modular construction is becoming increasingly popular in New York City due to changes in public perception and greater enthusiasm for the practice amongst members of the building industry.

While New Yorkers have traditionally been averse to living in buildings fashioned from pre-fabricated parts due to the enduring association of such materials with cheap, low-end housing, its embrace by members at the upper end of the construction industry has engendered a sea change in attitudes.

New York City’s inaugural micro-unit apartment building design contest recognized an entry by Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS. Their winning project is set be the first multi-unit building to make use of modular construction.

The project, entitled My Micro NY, will see the construction of 55 micro-apartments on a site at 335 East 27th street in Manhattan, and is expected to be ready for occupancy by September 2015.

Towards the end of last year, Forest City Ratner also announced that it would use modular construction to build a residential tower at the Atlantic Yard development, situated in Brooklyn, as part of a major overhaul of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area.

Building at Inwood Construction

Workers in Pennsylvania install walls for modular units, the building blocks for a seven-story apartment on a lot in Inwood. Image Credit: Julie Satow

According to one leader in the design and construction industry, people are slowly warming to use of modular building practices. David J. Burney, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction, told the New York Times that despite its traditional lack of status attitudes towards modular building are fundamentally shifting.

“Historically, people have had negative associations with modular construction, and certainly within the design industry it didn’t have much cachet,” he said. “But there has been a sea change, and now there is much less of a distinction over whether a building has been assembled off-site or on-site.”

Developers have been among the first to embrace the potential of modular construction, with Capsys Corp, a manufacturer of steel-frame prefabricated buildings and modular homes based in New York, reporting that it receives “a dozen calls a week” from developers who are interested in what the new technology has to offer.

DeLuxe Building Systems, a veteran in the field pre-fabricated construction, is also working on several projects in New York at present, including an 11-storey rental building in Harlem. The company is also is currently in negotiations with a developer for the construction of two 24-storey rental high rises.

By Marc Howe
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