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Atlantic Yards' Modular Rental Tower Will be World's Tallest

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[Renderings courtesy of Forest City Ratner and SHoP Architects.]

Putting to bed a year of speculation over the trajectory of the first Atlantic Yards residential building, Forest City Ratner announced this morning that so-called B2 will indeed be built with modular construction. And, once completed, the SHoP-designed, Arup-engineered edifice will be the world's tallest modular building, clocking in at 32 stories. It's the first of three residential towers planned for the site bordering Barclays Center, clustered around Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. Citing the aesthetic of the firm's previous work on Curbediverse obsession Porter House (bold!), ShoP showed us fresh renderings of the tower and its two facade materials.

Working with Arup and XSite Modular, the architects configured 930 steel chassis modules around a lateral system of steel braced frames, with all the connections on the exterior of the modules, a method the developer describes as "process, not product innovation." (Of Arup, Bruce Ratner says that without them, "life wouldn't be worth building"; without XSite's founder Amy Kulka-Marks, he says, "life wouldn't be worth living.") B2 will go splitsies between affordable rental housing and market rate (still rental) condos—175 of each, divided between 130 studios (37%), 180 one-bedrooms (51%), and 40 two-bedrooms (12%).

Assuming Forest City Ratner can make peace with the unions and secure financing, which we are assured are "parallel paths," groundbreaking on B2 will happen in early 2012, with expected completion in 18 months. Aaaaand about those unions: though only 40% of the labor force will work onsite, the labor required at the factory adds up to what the developer claims is the same amount of total labor hired for the project, around 190 workers. (As the Times reports, the project once promised upwards of 17,000 jobs and "under current wage scales, union workers earn less in a factory than they do on site.") Ratner is currently deciding among three empty factory sites, two in Brooklyn and one in Queens, to house the modular build-out, which requires between 70,000 and 100,000 square feet.

In choosing the route of modular or pre-cast construction, a debate that occupied over a year's worth of planning between developer, architect, engineer, and modular expert, the team actually designed two separate buildings, finding that the modular option costs 15-20% less than its traditional equivalent, weighs half as much, produces 70-90% less waste, and has "a reduced energy consumption of up to 67%." This is all assuming a scaled-up production pipeline is in place, which a 340,000-square-foot building demands. As Ratner puts it, "by working with smaller pieces you can do articulation better."
· Atlantic Yards coverage [Curbed]
· SHoP Architects coverage [Curbed]