Posts tagged with "modular 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.”
Feeling boxed in, the company that pushed the boundaries of modular building is cutting out of the business.
Developer Forest City Ratner is selling its factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to a Roger Krulak, a former executive at the company. The Navy Yard facility produced 930 units for the world's tallest modular structure—461 Dean Street, a 32-story tower in Pacific Park (née Atlantic Yards) designed by SHoP.
When factory first opened, Forest City planned to build structures to support the guts (plumbing, bath, kitchen, and electrical) of every one of Pacific Park's buildings. The firm touted modular building's efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and its potential impact on the construction industry—one Forest City executive called the technology at the factory its "iPhone moment."
Unlike Apple, though, which comes out with new iPhones annually, 461 Dean Street tower took four years to construct. This was due in part to the building's structural issues, but also to long-running disagreements between Forest City and Skanska, which ran the factory until Forest City regained control to streamline operations. The project has the dubious honor of having one of the most languid construction timelines for a tower of its size in city history, the New York Times reports.
Despite setbacks, modular building is appealing because all of a building's parts can be made at one site, shielded from the elements, under the watchful eye of the project's designers and engineers. Although low- and lower-rise buildings, like nArchitects' Carmel Place, are soundly modular, the Dean Street building needed extra engineering, primarily steel reinforcement to provide resilience against high winds.
“The bumps we hit, with respect to Skanska, are typical of any start-up,” a sunny MaryAnne Gilmartin, the chief executive of Forest City Ratner, told the Times. “The good news is that we’ve worked out a lot of the bugs and gotten through the growing pains of innovation.”
Although modular has more than proved its merit in smaller projects, 461 Dean Street tested the technology's limits. It remains to be seen how Krulak, and other players like Capsys, will scale modular to meet its lofty aspirations. For his part, Krulak estimates that his company, Full Stack Modular, could help clients save up to 20 percent on the project's cost.