Tiny Tuesday: A Win and a Fail for Modular Housing

The Stack, a recent development at the northern tip of Manhattan, used modular construction to create housing quickly and inexpensively. 56 prism-shaped modules create a seven-story structure housing studios and one- to three-bedroom units. Prices are high – the cheapest unit currently available rents for $1749 – but after all this is the Big Apple. (There are also six rent-adjusted units for families who can demonstrate a low income.)

TheStack1

Compare a module construction image with The Stack’s final form.

Looking at the floor plans, it’s clear that one module does not equal one unit. The spaces are connected to enable interesting, variable layouts, with a studio stealing space from an adjacent module to form a kitchen nook, and so on. The visual result is “mate lines”, floor joints between modules, as discussed in this building tour by Curbed. The contractor, Deluxe Building Systems, manufactured the modules at a Pennsylvania plant and erected them on-site in just 19 days. Interior finishes and utilities required several additional months of work, about the same as conventional construction.

TheStack2

Studio floor plan. (From developer’s website.)

A much larger modular housing development across town isn’t going so smoothly. Construction on B2, a 32-story tower in Brooklyn’s nascent Atlantic Yards complex, has been on hold since 2014. Developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) has taken contractor Skanska to court over cost overruns and a faulty construction process for what would have been the world’s tallest modular building. With its pioneer vision shattered, FCRC now expects to complete the structure using conventional construction.

TheStack3

The B2 development, mid-construction.

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