Developer Forest City Ratner is forming a team of 18 to design a 32-story residential building consisting of 930 prefab modules, Crain’s reported. The modules will have sections of finished apartments bolted to a steel frame, and the final product would be in Forest City’s Atlantic Yards project, near the Barclays Center. If the experiment is successful, 15 other modular apartment buildings, some reaching up to 50 stories, could be built next to it.
“We can show we can build modularly and be creative,” SHoP Architects principal and team member Christopher Sharples told Crain’s. “This type of project is why we are in business.” Sharples hopes to shatter the stereotype of modular towers as “a bunch of shoeboxes sitting on top of one another.”
Forest City will make a prototype module this month and decide by Christmas whether to pursue a modular or conventional building. One key factor is whether the developer will be able to convince unions to take pay cuts to lower construction costs by up to 25 percent.
A modular tower would have time-saving benefits; 60 percent of the construction would be performed in a factory, where carpenters, plumbers electricians and painters would make the modules, Crain’s reported. Simultaneously, crews at Atlantic Yards would raise the building’s steel frame. This could shorten the construction process by at least six months, saving millions of dollars.
The team has 16 weeks, blockbuster-style, to see if this project is feasible; the closest similar build in height is a 25-story university dorm in Wolverhampton, England. Forest City also plans for a less uniform tower with setbacks outside and 24 different apartment layouts inside, which requires 225 different modules and a more elaborate frame.
MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City executive vice president who is leading the project, told Crain’s, “This could revolutionize how we do construction in the city.”