When Skanska’s first foray into modular residential building in the U.S. is finally built, transported and erected it is sure to garner a lot of attention and scrutiny as it becomes the world’s tallest modular construction. When the project is complete on the 32-story, 348,000 SF apartment building, 60 percent of the building will have been constructed a mile and a half away from its location. By going modular the project will cost approximately 15 percent less and create 70 to 90 percent less construction waste than a conventionally built structure.
The 930 modules for the 363-unit building are currently being fabricated by union workers at a 150,000 SF factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The building is projected to take 18 months to complete and is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification. An additional 10 months would have been needed to complete the project had it been constructed by conventional means. Each of the modules will measure 14 Ft wide by 35 Ft long by 10 Ft tall and will be constructed with electrical lines, plumbing, all interior finishes including appliances as well as the exterior façade.
The structural steel frame for the project is currently being erected at the project site while the modules are being constructed. Once the frame is erected the modules will be trucked over from the factory and a crane will hoist each module into place where they will then be attached to the frame. Once completed, the building will top out at 322 feet and will claim the title of world’s tallest modular building easily surpass the Broadway Stack which at seven stories and 38,000 SF is currently the tallest residential modular building in the city.
Modular construction has been around for decades and used in a variety of applications such as single-family residences, data centers, schools and hospitals. A number of benefits of modular construction have been cited such as decreased costs, shortened project schedules, reduced waste and safer conditions. With the modules being constructed inside a factory it eliminates weather delays caused by rain and snow that normally affect building constructed using conventional methods. Because the modules are constructed in controlled environment in an assembly-line method, material waste and man-hours can be greatly reduced. Modular construction also offers a safer approach since working at height is eliminated.
This is not to say that modular construction won’t have its fair share of critics and controversy. The B2 project is already the subject of a lawsuit filed against the NYC Department of Buildings and its commissioner by a pair of trade organizations. The Mechanical Contractors Association of New York and the Plumbing Foundation City of New York are accusing the department of violating the city’s construction codes by not requiring licensed plumbing and fire suppression contractors complete the work on the modules at the offsite construction facility which they argue compromises the safety of the project. The Department of Buildings argues that since the units are being constructed offsite the construction codes don’t apply in the same manner and won’t have been violated as long as licensed professionals perform all the connections once the modules are erected and secured into place at the construction site. Whether this lawsuit was motivated by altruism or avarice is a discussion for another day.
If projects like the Broadway Stack and the B2 building prove to be successful it could usher in a whole new era for modular construction results in cost-effective and sustainable solutions for residential towers.