Sunday, December 2, 2012

Skanska to build Atlantic Yards ‘modules’ for Ratner

Skanska USA and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) today announced that B2, the first residential tower that is part of the Atlantic Yards Development in Brooklyn, will be built utilizing modular construction.

The groundbreaking on the 32-story building will be held on December 18 and the building is expected to open in 2014.

In addition, Skanska USA announced their partnership with FCRC to create a new company called FC + Skanska Modular, LLC (FCS Modular) that will build the modular components in a 100,000 square-foot space located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They estimate that there will be 125 unionized workers employed at the fabrication facility beginning in late spring, 2012 when modular production is fully under way.

Gary LaBarbera, the President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, announced as well that the workers would be organized into a newly formed Modular Division of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

While high-rise modular technology has been initially developed for use at Atlantic Yards, this new industry has the potential to create modular components for construction projects across New York City and worldwide, becoming the first major manufacturing expansion in New York City since manufacturing began its decline over a generation ago.

Modular construction is in use in various forms around the world. It is rarely used however for high rise development, even though it is perfectly suited for conditions where space is tight and land values are high — which is what makes its use on this project unique, and particularly relevant to New York.

Modular design and construction will allow the developer to produce higher quality housing at more affordable cost. But the project is equably about using technology to make a more sustainable, more economic, and higher quality product, which can produce a range of buildings – not only affordable housing, but also soaring office towers and luxury co-ops and condos.

“Construction is by definition about building,” said William Flemming, President and CEO at Skanska USA Building. “With this project, however, and with our partnership with FCRC and the Construction Trades, we are also building a new industry that has potential to become New York City’s newest export, a product and process that can transform how construction is done in this century. We are proud to bring our expertise in prefabrication—which we have used extensively on our healthcare and data center facility projects—to the residential market for the first time in New York City.”

“Housing was and is at the very foundation of the Atlantic Yards development,” said Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. “Our commitment to affordable housing—in a way that assists low-income New Yorkers and working families—is as strong today as when we announced this project nearly nine years ago. With modular, we are also transforming how housing is built in New York City and, potentially, around the world. And we are doing it, as we do with all of our construction, in partnership with union labor, the best labor, in the best City in the world. With our new partner, Skanska USA, we are creating a new industry for which we can say, ‘Made in Brooklyn.”

Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said, “Today, we move forward with an innovative approach to development that will allow us to realize the vision of the Atlantic Yards project and create traditional construction jobs that may otherwise have been at risk. And as we bring training, skill, quality and safety to modular construction through a strong labor-management partnership on this project, we see the potential to have this approach improve our competitiveness elsewhere in the local market and expand into an export industry to create even more sustainable union jobs that pay good wages and benefits.”

MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Executive Vice President at FCRC who is overseeing Atlantic Yards, explained, “Two years ago, due to the financial environment and other issues, we undertook intensive research and development to explore the feasibility of modular and to infuse technologically modern means of construction in our design and construction methods. We believe we’ve achieved a significant break through that will allow us to create world-class design and keep our commitment to union labor and deliver a significant amount of affordable housing.”

Designed by the award-winning architectural firm SHoP, the design architect for Barclays Center, the building will sit at the intersection of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue and have 363 units, 50 percent of which (181) will be low, moderate and middle-income homes. The remaining 50 percent (182) will be market rate. The units will be evenly divided throughout the building and all will have the same quality appliances and access to the same public spaces, including a fitness center, bike storage, a resident lounge, game room, yoga/dance studio and roof terrace. Each unit will have a washer and dryer.

Working with SHoP and internationally acclaimed engineering firm Arup, Forest City and Skanska have developed new construction techniques that will allow for 930 modular units—“mods”—to be assembled by workers at the Navy Yard facility and trucked to the construction site, where they will be raised by cranes and attached to the building’s steel frame.

Fabrication will take place in a controlled, efficient environment by union professionals protected from the weather year-round. Workers are trained in lean manufacturing methods and work as teams to complete the fabrication process consistent with detailed work instructions using precision tooling and templates. Modular construction uses the same construction materials as conventionally constructed buildings. These include steel, glass and all the finishes used in traditional buildings. Living spaces can be completely different from one another in size, shape, ceiling heights as well as finishes. Modules can even be set next to one another with open walls to create large open spaces. The façade of a modular building is not constrained by the modular fabrication and can be identical to a conventional façade.

Given much of the work will take place off-site, there will be significant reduction in truck traffic and other community impacts. It is also estimated that modular construction will result in 70 to 90 percent less waste than traditional construction. B2 is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification.

Modular buildings built in New York City must meet the NYC Building Code as well as all fire and life safety codes. Modular construction is also safer than conventional construction. The work environment reduces work at heights and removes environmental factors (snow, ice, water, and mud). It is estimated that manufacturing in this way is safer than on-site construction. Conventional on-site workers are also safer as they are primarily working within finished, enclosed portions of the building away from the typical risks of an open construction site.

B2 will contain 930 modules assembled into 150 studios (41%), 165 one bedroom (46%) and 48 two bedrooms (13%). Twenty percent of the affordable units will be 2 Bedroom/2 Bathroom apartments.

The exterior of the building will have a series of setbacks that have been articulated and integrated into the overall building’s massing. In addition to these volumetric breaks a variety of materials, colors and fabrication techniques have been utilized to create an intricate play of light, pattern and texture over the façade. Deep metal frames cantilever beyond the glazed openings of the residential units, each being accented by a series of beveled and perforated metal panels. The inlaid metal panels are dressed with accents of color, heightening the play of light and shadow across their smooth and articulated surfaces. At grade, full story glazed storefronts will be accented by covered entrances to the three new towers extending a more scaled intimacy, typical of Brooklyn’s streetscape along all the elevations of the arena site.

Source: Real Estate Weekly


  1. Forest City Ratner says that the work, including modular work at the factory and work on site, will require approximately the same number of man-hours that conventional construction would require.

    I wonder whether union readers agree. (Obviously, it will be easier to evaluate in two years or so.)

    If Forest City's statement is correct, then the savings to the developer would come mainly from lowered overall compensation. The New York Times reported, " Mr. La Barbera said union factory workers would earn $55,000 a year, 25 percent less than the average union construction worker."

    More here:

    Norman Oder
    Atlantic Yards Report


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