Modular Construction: Better or Worse For Prospect Heights?

Bloomberg marked the groundbreaking of Atlantic Yards' first tower Tuesday. Now area residents will see whether factory-made components improves or worsens life under construction.


Brace yourself: construction at Atlantic Yards is back in swing, this time on the site's first high-rise.

Not only does Prospect Heights have the joy of hosting Brooklyn's only sports arena, we also have the distinction of being the site of what will be the world's tallest building made from modular parts.

This means that the building will be built from trailer-size blocks constructed inside a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and then welded together like giant bricks at the site. 

Developer Forest City Ratner says it will cut costs by about a third, and says it's better for area residents because so much of the work will be done off-site.

However, area watchdog groups are concerned about traffic and noise caused by delivery of 930 ginormous pre-fab apartments, as well as where staging for the project will take place, now that the arena is up and running (original plans called for nearly simultaneous construction of the arena and the first tower). They have also critiqued the final project for not including as much affordable housing as promised. 

Unions initially critiqued the move to modular, but have since come on board, striking a deal to make the factory jobs union, though likely lower paying than traditional construction jobs.

Gary LaBarbera, the Building and Construction Trades Council's president praised modular construction in a written statement, saying it will keep unions competitive leading to more union jobs in the future, through local construction and perhaps even the export of the modules.    

The tower's 363 unions will be made up of 150 studios (41%), 165 one bedroom units (46%) and 48 two bedroom apartments (13%). Fifty percent of the units will be affordable housing, and 20 percent of those are 2 Bedroom/2 Bathroom apartments. The affordable units will be evenly spread throughout the building and residents will have full access to the building's amenities, according to Forest City Ratner. 

The components will be built by Skanska USA, and the building is designed by ShOp Architects (see more renderings of the project).

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and officials from the site's developer, Forest City Ratner, commemorated the groundbreaking at the corner of Dean and Flatbush Tuesday morning.

Both Bloomberg and Markowitz praised modular construction as an "innovative" process that will make construction of affordable housing less expensive and create new construction jobs in Brooklyn. 

What do you think Prospect Heights? Do you think the use of modular construction will improve or worsen the quality of life for those living near Atlantic Yards?

Greg todd January 12, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Modular housing is something architects love to talk about but rarely do. That's because it's rare to find a developer gutsy enough to risk millions on an untried technology. Ratner is that developer. In addition to cost savings, residents can look forward to better quality construction as most of the work is done indoors in a controlled climate, not outdoors subject to weather extremes. And most of the shipments of materials will be to the Navy Yard, not the congested Atlantic Yards. Instead of dozens of truck trips to build a single unit as is the case with normal "stick built" construction, with modular you have literally one truck trip per modular unit. In short, brilliant. Good show, Forest City.


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