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.
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Based in Montreal, architect and sculptor David Umemoto has created a number of Brutalist cubic volumes and sculptures. The forms, which derive from Brutalist principles, have been amalgamated in one work as part of a three-dimensional tessellating cube. When disassembled, the forms clearly resemble architectural elements and spaces. They can then be rearranged in any manner of compositions to create a series of both additive and subtractive volumes. Subsequently, Umemoto has repeated this process in some cases to generate modular city-scapes. Speaking of his work, Umemoto said: "This scalable modular building system is based on the theory that there is a universal order. Molecules, cycles, ecosystems, the order is the norm and chaos an accident." "Everything is connected, organized and structured; it is only a matter of place, time and scale. Thus, we can speak of a cellular system rather than modular elements that not only can be interchanged but also transformed. They obey rules in a rigid frame but with an organic development." In terms of process, the forms were created by Umemoto as reliefs using styrofoam as a placeholder for the concrete. Here the concrete, when wet, inhibits the space left within the styrofoam and once dry, can simply be removed to reveal the negative of the styrofoam form. Umemoto hasn't just used this technique for volumetric purposes, either. In one instance, a pattern using a more complex array of curves was carved onto a styrofoam sheet and impressed onto the concrete. "The work is an exploration of the patterns and codes, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure, that govern our environment," said Umemoto.
Modular self-shading system delivers budget-friendly environmental performance.Tapped to design the facade for the HUB-1 office building at Karle Town Centre in Bangalore, India, New York–based Merge Studio faced a two-pronged challenge: crafting an efficient envelope that would beat the heat without breaking the developer's budget. Moreover, the architects (whose role later expanded to include landscape and public space design) aspired to lend the twelve-story tower, the first in the 3.6 million-square-foot SEZ development, an iconic appearance. "The idea was that we bring together the aesthetics of the facade and make it performative as well," explained Merge founder and advisor Varun Kohli. Despite financial constraints dictated by India's competitive development market, Merge delivered, designing a modular facade comprising metal and glass "waves" that cut solar gain while allowing light and air to penetrate the interior. Solar analysis helped dictate Merge's overall strategy for the building envelope. "In this climate, the maximum impact in terms of heat loads happens through direct radiation, as opposed to conductive heat transfers, which meant that the shading aspect was most important," said Kohli. To lower costs, the architects came up with the idea of a modular, self-shading system in which successive "waves," oriented vertically, shade adjacent glazing. They also streamlined construction through a combination of a minimal material palette and off-site prefabrication. Though Merge had to special-order 1.5-meter Alubond panels, "everything else was fairly simple," said Kohli. "We made sure that there's no glazing where the aluminum panels curve." Mumbai's SP Fab manufactured and installed the facade, splitting each "wave" into three prefabricated pieces that were then trucked to the site and hooked on. HUB-1's glazing was carefully plotted according to the solar studies, with windows decreasing in size on the tower's upper levels. The architects also reduced the window-to-wall ratio on the east- and west-facing sides of the building. They selected double-glazed windows with a low-e coating from St. Gobain India. "It's one of the few buildings using the most high performance glass available in the country," noted Kohli. "It was a careful selection of [performance] strategies." Ventilation is provided by operable vertical slot windows between the crest of each "wave" and the adjacent panel. "Studies showed that we would be able to grab more air through those because of turbulence as it moves around the surface," said Kohli. Some of Merge's initial hopes for improved environmental performance were quashed by the financial reality on the ground. "Obviously, we made a number of compromises along the way," said Kohli. "But I think we can still prove that we were able to save energy in the range of 15-16 percent due to the facade alone." The building as a whole, which will be complete this spring, is targeting LEED Gold certification. Kohli also noted the self-shading system's potential, given a different set of circumstances. "When we first started developing this, we had enough variables that we could really manipulate the facade in response to the environment; the curves could be larger or smaller, and other variables," said Kohli. "But given the fact that we're designing in a market that's very tough financially, we had to really dumb it down. There's quite a bit of [room to explore]."
Self proclaimed “Shipping Container Architects,” Boxman Studios, have teamed up with marketing agency Advantage International and Hyundai to bring modular, prefabricated architecture to pre-game parking lots across the country. Consisting of three shipping container units, the 1500 square foot Hyundai Field House will be traveling to 25 different college campuses to provide a flexible environment for tailgating festivities. The custom-built containers were crafted from recycled materials and outfitted with bean-bag chairs, barstools, couches, and six HD monitors. The structures’ modular design allow them to be adapted to various campus climates and grounds, from Texas to Ohio, as well as the branding of each team. Each of the three units can function independently, or work come together in a variety of forms to suit their environment.
With one location in Midtown East and another in Murray Hill, Pod Hotel is planning to build a third outpost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Capital New York reported. The hip hotel chain has hired prominent prefab proponents Garrison Architects to design their newest location, which will be built using modular construction. According to Curbed, the proposed mixed-use development will be located on a 100,000 square foot site at the corner of Driggs Avenue and North 4th Street and include over 200 guest rooms, as well as retail, a restaurant and bar, roof garden, roof terrace bar and a series of courtyards. For a faster, greener, and cheaper construction process, Garrison Architects plans to piece together the 50-foot-tall hotel using pre-fabricated, 10-foot-by-30-foot components that contain two rooms and a corridor. If these pre-fab plans follow though, it would join two other recent Garrison projects, a disaster housing prototype on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn and acclaimed lifeguard facilities out on Rockaway Beach in Queens.
In the wake of the completion of the $111.9 million Bing Concert Hall in January, Stanford University has kicked off construction on a new seven-story hospital as part of the ongoing renewal of its medical center. Designed by New York City–based Rafael Viñoly Architects, the facility features a modular layout that allows for incremental horizontal extensions to the building. This development strategy seamlessly merges with the low-rise campus. "This project represents an unprecedented endeavor in the hospital's successful 50-year history of healing humanity," said the ever-modest Viñoly in a statement. "By reinterpreting and updating the Stanford campus and the original hospital through a modular plan, it is poised to adapt to evolving medical technology while continuing to provide advanced care and treatment—in a healing environment unique to Stanford—to patients from surrounding communities and beyond." One of the largest developments currently underway on the San Francisco Peninsula, the new hospital will be open for patient care by 2018. The design is based around a universal modular building block measuring 120 feet by 120 feet, which was calculated to offer the best possible arrangement for numerous hospital roles, guaranteeing flexibility in adjusting to the constantly shifting needs of medical technology. The new building includes 368 private patient rooms with wall-to-wall windows that provide natural light and sweeping views, high-tech diagnostic and treatment rooms, and a Level 1 Trauma Center that triples the size of the existing Emergency Department. A 1,000-car parking structure and five gardens are part of the modular plan, which integrates open public spaces such as a glass-covered atrium and landscaped drop-off plaza. The hospital will be seismically isolated to protect occupants and the facility from catastrophic earthquakes.
e+i studio of New York won a design competition for their concept of a trade show pavilion made entirely from Italian tile.Crafting a memorable and intimate environment within voluminous convention halls can be a daunting challenge. To establish a meaningful presence in such environs, Ceramics of Italy tapped into the A&D community with a competition in 2012 for unique booth designs to showcase the products of its manufacturers. Piazza Ceramica, designed by e+i Studio and fabricated by A&M Production, won the competition. Its proposal was installed at the Coverings Tile and Stone trade show in 2012 and 2013. Inspired by Italy’s social culture, architects Ian Gordon and Eva Perez de Vega used the idea of a public space to showcase tiles produced in Italy for a bespoke, modular pavilion that houses a multi-function program of a café, information kiosk, and restaurant. The design utilizes a topographical approach to build up the pavilion’s perimeter with seating and display installed product. “From the beginning, we started to look at the topography in a series of parametric studies to determine the optimal stair/riser ratio to integrate the substructure of the two mounds,” said Perez de Vega. “From there, we wanted color to be an important component to showcase the qualities of the tile to transition smoothly from intense greens to reds to whites.” While parametric tools played a large part in developing the piazza, the designers say the use of Grasshopper was more instrumental than generative. “The digital tools were used where it was useful, but there was also a lot of hand tuning and fine crafting,” Gordon said. “Modeling the project digitally streamlined the initial process. We were able to study more variations in less time to rule out options that didn’t look right.” The digital processes was also essential to the off-site fabricators who are located in Reggio, Italy. From New York, e+i Studio was able to communicate with their Italian team in a short period of time, with exact specifications for each element of the piazza. “The thickness of the mortar, the sizing, had to be as precise as possible and digital fabrication was critical to this,” explained Perez de Vega. “We produced construction documents but the most reliable source was our 3D documents, and the fabricators understood exactly what we were trying to do,” added Gordon. The pavilion was designed as a three-dimensional puzzle, as the temporary installation would be reconfigured for three years in various exhibition halls. A CNC-milled wooden grid forms a shell to support tiled surfaces that grow upwards as seating risers, ultimately cantilevering over the base. Both mounds are mirrored copies so they can be reconfigured for any environment. With the end result, the designers were struck by the juxtaposition of centuries-old materials and new technologies, such as water-jet cutting and digital modeling. “At the beginning, we felt unconstrained about tile being rectilinear, knowing that digital fabrication would let us create what we wanted,” Gordon said. “Infusing the project with curves was possible with digital drawings and communication.”
At Tuesday's groundbreaking of B2, the first 32-story residential tower to be built at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, New Yorkers got a sneak peek at how the world’s tallest modular building will be constructed. Just beyond the podium stood what officials call the “chassis,” a steel framed box that makes up an essential structural element of the building. “You don’t need to compromise on design when it comes to modular,” said Developer Bruce Ratner. Located on the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, the SHoP Architects-designed tower will rise above the Barclay Center, also designed by SHoP, and offer 363 units split evenly between affordable housing and market rate units. Ratner told the audience that the affordable units at Atlantic Yards will be equipped with the exact same appliances and amenities as the market rate apartments: “You will not know an affordable unit from a market rate unit.” The bulk of the construction of the modular components will happen in a 100,000 square-foot space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with the help of 125 unionized workers, which MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner, said would help in the “reduction of traffic, dust, and waste” and Mayor Bloomberg hailed as “cheaper and less disruptive.” B2 is just the first of more than a dozen residential buildings to come.
On Wednesday, Forest City Ratner made it official: the world's tallest prefabricated building will be coming to Brooklyn with a groundbreaking date set for December 18. As AN outlined in our recent feature on Atlantic Yards, the SHoP Architects-designed B2 Tower will climb, modular unit by modular unit, 32 stories on a slender wedge-shaped parcel adjacent to the new Barclays Center on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. Renderings released with the groundbreaking announcement also revealed design revisions to the B2 Tower since it was unveiled in November 2011, and Chris Sharples, principal at SHoP, told AN what's new. The B2 Tower's massing remains the same as before, conforming to strict guidelines for setbacks mandated by the Empire State Development Corporation, but the facade treatments for each of the three massing types in the building have been refined. "When we first started, we were doing a conventional design," Sharples noted. "We decided to move away from emphasizing the frames or boxes. It doesn't have to look like a modular building." The red mass, nicknamed "the wedge" in SHoP's offices, has been updated to de-emphasize the repetition of modular units. Previously, the facade was comprised of a rigid grid of charcoal-colored rectangles forming deep reveals with red accents."There's still relief, the red L-frames project out from the charcoal," Sharples said. "It's a bit more subtle." The new arrangement creates a series of variegated vertical stripes, helping to create a singular unit rather than a stack of boxes. Similarly on the top-most mass, the grid was softened. "At the top, we emphasized the bevel with pewter gray and silver gray," Sharples noted. The slight color variation helps to emphasize shadow on the facade and unify the mass. ShoP also refined the cladding on the third mass, with a skin of anodized aluminum perforated panels, creating an intricate play of light on the structure. Set back, one final facade—"the glue that brings all three volumes together"—will feature black glass. Sharples noted that prefabrication is a dynamic process. "As we go into production, we'll evolve even further like we did at the arena." Each of the 930 prefabricated modules—called "mods"—will be manufactured at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, part of a collaboration between Forest City and construction company Skanska, where controlled conditions will speed construction times. Each mod will arrive at the construction site fully assembled with all interior finishes and appliances installed. Up to three mods, measuring nearly 400 square feet, will make up each apartment. SHoP has designed the mods with hinged panels on the exterior that can fold down to cover joints during installation. Sharples said these "mate lines" present a unique challenge with prefabricated design and will be some of the only finish work construction to take place on site. On the interior of the units, he noted, walls where two mods are joined will appear slightly thicker than traditional wall construction. When complete, the B2 Tower will house 363 residential units over retail space and will feature roof terraces, indoor bike storage, common areas, and even a yoga studio. Developers are anticipating an opening in 2014.
On September 15th and 16th modular home builder Blu Homes is hosting its own home tour in Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert. The three-bedroom house on view was factory built, transported by truck and recently unfolded on site (see video after the jump). Of course large windows, shaded outdoor spaces, and a constant connection to the outdoors work in other places too, but it's certainly dramatic in the desert. If you want to see for yourself, RSVP here (and bring your sunscreen). But how do you find the land to build a home like this? Blu and real estate site Redfin are teaming up to help potential buyers identify and buy properties on which to build their prefabs. This seems to have been the missing link for this type of home, so perhaps they're on to something?