According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue. Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits. As reported by The National Real Estate Investor, over the last five years, the modular construction business has doubled in size to become an $8 billion industry. What amounts for the new interest? Previous studies have shown that increased productivity and lower costs are driving contractors to embrace modular construction. Now, with materials costs continuing to rise around the world, these potential savings have become even more critical. But they're not the only issue. The CCI study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed contractors reported eight clear benefits of modular construction: increases in efficiency, productivity, safety, and quality; reductions in risk, cost, material waste, and construction times—an particularly important benefit for revenue-earning buildings whose owners want to start collecting rent as soon as possible. A few of those benefits go hand-in-hand with one another, but the report is promising for the industry. The nonprofit Modular Building Institute also predicts an increase in modular construction over the next few years. However, in their view, it's not just the above-mentioned benefits driving change, it's also the accelerating loss of skilled labor that will push the industry further toward industrialization and automation. The reports are a potential boon for the industry, which hit some bumps during what might be called its “start-up” phase a few years ago. Notably, 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn’s Pacific Park development hit setbacks that included manufacturing disruptions, disputes, and delays that ultimately lead to a four-year construction period and giving it, as AN wrote at the time, “the dubious honor of having one of the most languid construction timelines for a tower of its size in city history.” The plan for more modular buildings in Pacific Park was abandoned, but, after the project got back on track, the building now stands as a model of the potential and the pitfalls of modular construction. The stories that have since followed have suffered from fewer hiccups, like the 21-story CitizenM New York. The tallest modular hotel in the United States, the CitizenM is composed of 210 modular units, each housing two hotel rooms. Housing, hotels, and hospitals, which depend on the repetition of identical rooms and spaces, are the areas that stand to benefit the most and, in turn, drive the growth of modular construction. What could stall the rise of modular construction? Upfront costs can be large and securing loans can be difficult. And although the manufacturing technology is becoming more sound, the much-touted savings aren’t as significant as predicted yet. That could change as demand rises, as more factories are built to produce modular components, and as other factors, like the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce shipping costs and advancements in BIM make it easier to build stronger partnerships between architect, fabricator, and contractor. The last hurdle? A lack of awareness. More than 70 percent of general contractors say their reason for not using modular construction is that clients aren't asking for them and architects aren’t designing them.
Posts tagged with "Modular Construction":
Mexican practice Escobedo Soliz recently completed two schools in Mexico's Puebla region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2017. According to the architects, over 200 public schools were destroyed in the region, which spurred a group of private investors to commission the firm to create two primary schools in the town of Santa Isabel Cholula. The team had only nine months to design and build both structures, leading to the selection of a modular, prefabricated system. The two schools use repetitive, single-story, barn-like modules with skylights along their ridges and red-pigmented precast concrete panels on their exteriors. The modules are arranged along covered porticos that act as outdoor hallways.
Brought to you with support fromModular construction is gaining steam in New York City, with the technique being utilized for new projects ranging from affordable housing to academic facilities. In September 2018, modular technology reached a new height with the tallest modular hotel in the United States, the 21-story citizenM New York Bowery located in Manhattan. For the modular units, Concrete Architectural Associates, Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects and Planners, and DeSimone Consulting Engineers reached out to Polish manufacturers Polcom Modular, and Aluprof S.A. The units, which measure 48 feet by 8 feet by 9 feet and incorporate two hotel rooms and a central corridor (following a pattern of guestroom-corridor-guestroom), were specifically designed to navigate the street width of New York City. Each module was assembled with the street-facing facade included.
Red Hook Terminal. From Brooklyn, a convoy of flatbed trucks transported the units across the East River to the construction site. The project began with the construction of a four-story concrete base, topped with a 36-inch-thick slab that spans up to 38 feet. This podium, which houses larger amenity spaces below, serves as a transfer slab to support the modular pods above. While the bulk of the citizenM New York Bowery hotel is composed of modular units, there are certain structural elements that span the building’s height. Prior to the craning in of prefabricated components, the construction team poured a full-height concrete structural core along the sites southwest corner and a sheer wall to the north. These concrete structural elements are the primary lateral system for the tower, with the sheer wall largely preventing the modular units from twisting. "Diagonal strap bracing on the module ceiling acted as the floor diaphragm to transfer the floor lateral loads back to the sheer walls," said DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda, "the sheer wall's steel connection plates were bolted into the module ceilings and the female end of a Halfen stud embedded into the concrete structure." Once on site, the modules were lifted by crane and stacked module-to-module, each tied to the one directly below by bolted connections. According to DeSimone Engineers, "countersunk bolts were typically used for the diaphragm connections to prevent boltheads from interfering with the bearing of the module above." During construction, the prefabricated units were effectively cocooned within a watertight membrane, with the central portion later being cut out for the hotel’s corridors. After a brief learning curve at the start of the project, the construction team was capable of installing one floor of modular units per week. The top two floors of the tower are framed by structural steel, allowing for larger amenity spaces.Following fabrication, the 210 modular units were transported hundreds of miles from the manufacturing facilities in Goleszów, Poland to the northern port city of Gdańsk where they began the second leg of their trip to New York’s
CitizenM, the boutique hotel company founded in Amsterdam that prides itself on offering affordable luxury lodging, is opening its second hotel in New York and in the United States this week, on the Bowery on the Lower East Side in a building designed by Stephen B. Jacobs Group. The new hotel will be the brand’s first in the U.S. to use its prefabricated construction system, which no doubt helps make its luxury affordable. According to Rob Wagemans, the brand’s creative director who is also the founder of Concrete, an Amsterdam-based design firm, many citizenM hotels feature modular guest rooms that are prefabricated in a factory north of Gdansk, Poland, and then shipped by sea in containers to the hotels’ location. The Bowery hotel’s 300 165-square-foot prefabricated guest rooms, made of steel, with concrete floors covered with a wood laminate. were shipped containing most of their furniture, all pieces attached to the rooms’ walls or floor. The furniture includes a California king-size bed that is placed directly below the guest room’s window, which is located in one of its walls, and that lies flush against two other walls facing each other; an HD TV, with wiring done in Poland, that is located at the foot of the bed, mounted on the wall; a table next to one wall that contains the room’s iPad, which controls its lighting, blinds, and TV; a Corian vanity on the opposite wall that contains a sink, minibar, and mirror; and table lamps and a George Nelson lamp above the bed. The room’s frosted glassed-in combined shower and toilet space is also prefabricated; appliances here were made in Germany by Hansgrohe and shipped to Poland for installation Not sent by container is the rooms' movable furniture, such as a red-upholstered Eames chair from Vitra with an accompanying bench; decorative and visual art; and toiletries and toilet paper. Each modular unit consists of two guest rooms connected by a hallway, and 210 units were shipped to New York for the Bowery hotel. The hallway carpet here is decorated with local landmarks and was installed on-site. Wagemans said citizenM’s first hotel in the United States—located in Times Square—was not constructed with modular rooms because when it opened in 2014, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) would not permit installation of a sprinkler system that was built overseas and not been inspected locally. Robin Chadha, citizenM’s chief marketing officer, said that the administration of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio now looks favorably on prefabrication and is permitting DOB inspectors to go to Europe to inspect sprinklers in citizenM’s modular guest rooms. CitizenM declined to quantify savings afforded by guest room prefabrication, but said the units’ small size means they “generate up to 35 percent more hotel keys per property than a traditional hotel” and undoubtedly more revenue. Not all of the new Bowery hotel was prefabricated. Spaces that were not include the lobby, a ground floor cafe, a “living room” one floor below the first floor, and a rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city. CitizenM, which owns and operates its 13 hotels worldwide, constructed the 246-feet-tall building the Bowery hotel occupies and claims it is one of the highest in its Lower East Side neighborhood. Eight of the brand’s 13 hotels feature modular guest rooms.
Modular construction is continuing its slow rise across the U.S. Last week Hilton publicized that its forthcoming mid-range Home2 Suites hotel in South San Francisco is being built using the technique. At a press event, officials watched cranes raise building modules into place on the hotel's site near the San Francisco International Airport. Hilton says that the hotel will be built faster thanks to off-site fabrication. Hilton is not the first hotel chain to experiment modular construction. Last year Marriott announced that they would be using the method to build their new hotels in the U.S., and hotels in Europe have been using modular construction for years. According to Hilton, this would, however, be the first hotel to use modular construction in the Bay Area, a region that has shown interest in adopting the construction technique more generally. Last year Google's parent company, Alphabet, announced that they would use modular construction to build housing on their growing Silicon Valley campus. Modular construction has had a rocky record in the U.S. While more companies and city governments are exploring it, high-profile debacles like the B2 tower designed by SHoP Architects have tempered momentum. According to a modular builder quoted in a 2017 USA Today article, the technique still composes only about three percent of all construction starts in North America. Hotels, with their arrays of repetitive units, make a natural fit for modular construction, which takes advantage of economies of scale to reduce costs. Hilton says that they were able to halve construction time for their new hotel and that it was built considerably faster than comparable non-modular projects in the area. They have not indicated whether they intend to continue using the strategy going forward.
New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development. As reported by The Real Deal, NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49,397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station. For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless. Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals. Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the many tools that the de Blasio administration wants to use to hit 300,000 units of new or preserved units of housing by 2026 (up from 200,000 units in the 2014 plan). Boston is gearing up to open a new modular unit factory, and modular design/build start-up Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion across the West Coast. AN will follow this article up after a team for 581 Grant Street has been selected.
Less than a month after launching the Yeezy Home architecture studio, Kanye West and collaborators Jalil Peraza, Petra Kustrin, Nejc Skufca and Vadik Marmelado have unveiled initial renderings for a prefabricated affordable housing prototype. Renderings for the speculative design project were unveiled via Peraza’s Instagram account over the weekend. The images depict photorealistic renderings of concrete paneled apartment interiors and are labeled as a “low-income housing scheme” by Peraza. The slick interior images betray the minimal-meets-sumptuous vernacular West favors, showcasing views of a sleek, sun-lit kitchen and an atmospheric courtyard. A third view acquired by Highsnobiety depicts a white-walled room that connects directly to the aforementioned, window-paneled courtyard. The project images come as West attempts to expand into the world of architecture and urban design following a visit to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). West recently unveiled views of the Yeezy Offices in Calabasas, California undertaken with the designer Willo Perron. In the past, West has worked with OMA, Family, John Pawson, and Alex Vervoodt on personal design collaborations, as well. Peraza is a long-time collaborator with West and has worked on the rapper’s DONDA clothing line in the past. A project timeline or site for the low-cost housing scheme has not been announced, but considering Peraza’s ongoing work with Face Modules, a prefab commercial pod system, it could be that the scheme is designed for mass application. West’s interest in low-cost housing comes along amid languishing urgency surrounding a nation-wide housing crisis. Experts widely agree that a shortage of affordable housing units nationwide is fueling income inequality, economic stagnation, and a growing homelessness epidemic, though little has been done about it. The designers’ efforts mirror those of another celebrity-turned-developer—Elon Musk—who has proposed making bricks from the mud excavated from his tunnel boring activities in Los Angeles, in order to build affordable housing.
Catalog homes could soon be seeing a resurgence, as London-based startup Cube Haus has enlisted several big-name English architects to design modular, off-the-shelf homes for design lovers on a budget. Adjaye Associates, Skene Catling de la Pena, Carl Turner Architects, and furniture designer Faye Toogood have all signed on to design high-density housing that will infill “awkward” sites throughout London. London homeowners have the option to subdivide their property and build on the unused portions, resulting in awkwardly shaped plots. Cube Haus claims that its modular designs can be scaled to fit these unorthodox lots and infill areas naturally and that their homes will cost 10 to 15 percent less than a conventional model because of their off-site manufacturing. Each home will be framed from solid sheets of cross-laminated timber and moved into place at the construction site, then clad in sustainable materials. Cube Haus is also offering up its designs for consumers building in more traditional lots as well. Adjaye Associates is no stranger to residential housing in London, and their rectangular Cube Haus design closely resembles Adjaye’s 2007 Sunken House in Hackney. Excavated gardens in the home’s yard plays a central role in this scheme, as do tall windows and ample natural light. Everything else about the timber-clad home’s layout is up to the landowner, and all of the rooms have been designed for a plug-and-play approach. Carl Turner has brought two schemes to the table. The first is a two-story house with a flat courtyard area on the roof, which splits the upper level into two pitched volumes. Cube Haus notes that the pitch of the roof can be adjusted, rotated, or flattened out according to the client’s whims. The second model is single-story slab pierced with a square courtyard, with the home’s programming arranged around this space. Consumers have the choice of cladding their homes in opaque glass, zinc, charred timber, or dark brick. Skene Catling de la Peña engineered their scheme as a “building within a building,” designing a masonry-clad central column that serves as a fireplace, staircase, hot water heater, and storage space around which the rest of the rooms are organized. Homeowners have several options for how they can clad the shaft, from tile to marble–or it can be left undecorated, exposing the precast concrete structure below. The homes themselves will be malleable to the irregular sites, linked through their spacious rooms and ubiquitous views of the main column. Faye Toogood has offered up a simple scheme in two material palettes; one light and one dark. A central garden placed between two pitched peaks breaks up the rectilinear massing of the house, creating a form suitable for both the urban environment as well as the countryside. Cube Haus is the child of entrepreneurs Philip Bueno de Mesquita (himself an owner of an Adjaye-designed home in London) and Paul Tully. The company is already building, with two sites in Forest Gate, London under construction and others in pre-planning throughout the city. Cube Haus hopes that its three-bedroom homes will sell for anywhere from $880,000 to approximately $1 million.
“Every building shouldn’t be a one-off prototype.” That’s an underlying and provocative premise behind Katerra, a technology company that’s on a mission to optimize the way buildings are developed, designed, and constructed. Truth be told, the industry is primed for an overhaul. Construction companies traditionally invest less than 1 percent of revenue in new technologies—lower than every other major industry, according to the company’s literature. As a result, simultaneous productivity decreases and cost increases during the last several decades have created a quandary that requires fresh thinking and outside-of-the-box solutions. “The one thing that’s become very apparent is that—and this is typical in an up-cycle—it’s very difficult for architects and contractors to keep up with material costs, with cost escalation in these upturn markets,” explained Craig Curtis, FAIA, Architecture, Interior Design at Katerra. “And if you couple that with the fact that the skilled labor shortage is becoming more and more critical, where we’re headed right now as an industry I think is kind of a train wreck.” To help avert such a debacle, Katerra is completely rethinking the existing construction model and replacing it with technology, design, and supply chain innovations that aim to revolutionize the world of architecture and construction.
The Silicon Valley Approach to Building“What we’re trying to do is take on every aspect of the entire process as the Silicon Valley way of looking at an industry so that it’s not just focused on supply chain, which is where we started,” Curtis explained. “We’re really looking at from initial site concepts to own the process all the way through design, through component design, manufacturing drawings, offsite manufacturing, and final site assembly—the entire package all in one with one hand to shake.” [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyoTBNLaXAg] For those who cringe at the term “mass customization” and shudder at the thought of a skyline full of banal, indistinguishable prefabricated structures, take heart: Katerra is, at its core, a company in the business of preserving and improving the design process, rather than dismantling it. “We’re a design-first company here,” Curtis noted. “This is not a company that is producing cookie-cutter-looking buildings; the cookie-cutting part of what we’re doing is all stuff that can easily be redundant without affecting the beauty of the architecture,” he continued. “So, we’re really concentrating on making sure that everything we do allows for that customization of not only the experience inside, but also how the building fits into a particular culture or climate or place.” In other words, Katerra does not build prefabricated modules or completed hotel room pods, for example, and truck them down the highway on a flatbed. Rather, Curtis said the company takes a cue from global furniture giant IKEA to flat-pack building materials and interior components to improve logistics and reduce shipping costs. By doing so, it offers greater flexibility in the final look and feel of a building and allows architects to do more of what they do best—not less. “By optimizing a lot of the interior and the systems that are within these buildings, we’re actually finding that as architects, we have more time to spend instead of less time to spend on the thing that really matters and that’s: What does the building look like and how does it fit into a community?” Curtis said. “We’re not spending all that time redrawing bathrooms or mechanical systems or electrical layouts because that’s done; it’s repetitive. A lot of that work can be done in the computer,” he added.
Executing the DesignKaterra operates under another premise as well: “A transformative approach to building begins with design.” As such, the company developed a novel building system to strike a balance between standardization and configuration. Based upon a standard kit of parts, Katerra’s design system utilizes structural building components and curated interior products and finishes to create a multitude of elegant, custom configurations, according to company literature. Katerra’s BIM modeling links directly to its global supply chain through proprietary technology to ensure ease of ordering, tracking, and manufacturing. Its integrated logistic network, global product sourcing, and manufacturing teams reduce the number of suppliers and manufacturers, creating aggregate demand that establishes negotiating power to the benefit of clients. The company’s end-to-end building process mimics the process of precision-sequenced product assembly, moving labor from the job site to its factories, promising improved schedule and product quality assurance. “We have customers who are very interested in having a partner who can create a more systemized approach to what they do and just streamline the process from the very beginning,” Curtis explained. “Instead of every single project being bespoke and starting with an entire new team, which is what the industry has been forever, we can become their partner and help them develop their systems, building tools, and custom assemblies suited for their operation and what they do and what they do well, and help them execute that faster and cheaper.”
Chicago-based general contractors Skender are getting into the modular manufacturing game, with an announcement that they will be building a factory on Chicago’s southwest side that can crank out hotel rooms and entire apartments. Skender is going all in on the new factory and modular fabrication startup, which they claim will put 100 people to work (an impressive number, as Skender only has 300 employees), and is using the opportunity to shift towards a design-build model. The company has bought out local firm Ingenious Architecture and will use the 10-person studio to guide the design and manufacturing of the modular units. Tim Swanson, formerly the head of CannonDesign’s Chicago office, will be joining as Skender’s chief design officer, Kevin Bredeson has been named the chief technology officer, and the company is hunting for a CEO to lead its factory. The move represents a huge expansion in scope for Skender, which has also changed its name from Skender Construction as part of the new direction the company is pursuing. “We are asking new questions,” said Skender President and Partner Justin Brown in a statement. “Why can’t we apply sophisticated design principles to modular manufacturing? How can we eliminate weather delays by bringing large parts of the process indoors? How can we significantly boost productivity without sacrificing quality?” Skender is expecting to roll full apartments, hotel rooms, and pieces of both multi-family residences and healthcare buildings off its new assembly line. Everything can be fabricated at the factory by tradespeople, from cabinets to light fixtures to units that have been pre-wired and set up for plumbing, then shipped to the potential construction site and unloaded via crane. Besides being able to construct modular buildings from the ground up (similar to New York’s Carmel Place), Skender plans to use the factory to work on both the interior and exteriors of its projects simultaneously, and standardize production. To say that modular architecture has had its ups and downs in recent years would be an understatement. While the world’s largest modular hotel, the Stephen B. Jacobs Group-designed CitizenM, is nearly complete in New York, the industry is still smarting from the bruising battle it took to complete 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn. The Pacific Park tower eventually became the world's tallest modular building, but was mired in lawsuits between Skanska and developer Forest City Ratner until the latter cut their losses and sold their modular manufacturing factory to architect Roger Krulak and his company, FullStack Modular. It remains to be seen if Skender can make the model work for them, but their smaller scope should help. If all goes as planned, Skender expects to pick a site for the factory in the coming months and to begin production in the fourth quarter of this year.
Modular construction is hot here in the Bay Area, and has captured the interest of developers, investors and residents in search of a more effective, potentially less-expensive, way to build housing. Join us as we visit a brand new modular housing project in San Jose for an up-close look at how these units, which are constructed off-site before being trucked to San Jose, are set in place and locked together. Co-presented by First Community Housing. + Martin Keller / First Community Housing + Chris Schmidt / Guerdon Modular Buildings + Chris Rimes / Proset Modular
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, host country Qatar has officially revealed that its seventh stadium for the event will be the world’s first fully modular stadium. The 40,000-seat arena will be constructed mainly from shipping containers and should be fully capable of being disassembled and reconstructed elsewhere. Announced on Sunday by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organization responsible for Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is the latest piece of Qatar’s $200 billion World Cup project to be revealed. The third venue to be designed for the 2022 World Cup by Fenwick Iribarren Architects, the stadium will be located on the waterfront of Doha, the country’s capital. By using modular shipping container blocks containing removable seats, concession stands, bathrooms and merchandise booths, the stadium’s layout can easily be adjusted in the future. Each of the pieces will arrive by tanker and be assembled on site. SC Secretary General H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi stressed the advantages of modular construction in a statement given to FIFA yesterday. "This venue offers the perfect legacy, capable of being reassembled in a new location in its entirety or built into numerous small sports and cultural venues. All of this in a stadium that delivers the atmosphere fans expect at a World Cup and which we will build in a more sustainable way than ever before,” he said. Because fewer materials will be needed in the stadium’s construction, and because Qatar has made integrating the newly-christened Stadium District into the fabric of Doha a top priority, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will receive a four-star Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) certification upon completion. GSAS is a far-reaching set of rigid green design, build and operations guidelines for cooperating Gulf countries. Qatar’s involvement with the 2022 World Cup hasn’t been entirely without controversy, however. Despite locking in big-name architects such as Zaha Hadid to either renovate existing stadiums or build modern arenas from the ground up, even FIFA’s own advisory board on human rights has raised questions over how construction workers in the country are being treated. With the country currently facing an embargo from the United Arab Emirates, building materials have also become harder to come by in recent months. Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is currently under construction and still on track for an early 2020 completion date, a full two years before the World Cup kicks off.