The world's tallest modular tower is currently rising in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards megaproject, and Forbes recently took a trip behind the scenes to see how the prefab building comes together. The 930 steel modules that will make up the structure are being fabricated by FCS Modular, a joint venture by engineering firm Skanska and project developer Forest City Ratner, in a warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard before they are trucked 2.5 miles to the building site. Currently, the process of building one mod and snapping it in place at B2 takes about 20 days (which is why things are moving slower than expected), but Skanska's VP tells Forbes that "[they'll] get faster."
Forest City Ratner's decision to use modular building technology elicited outrage from the construction unions, as it meant a lot less jobs were being created by the development. An agreement with the unions was eventually worked out, and Forbes explains that the deal is almost as innovative as the construction technology itself:
Because the work is predicted to last more than two decades, the unions were willing to accept lower per-hour rates. Another key component: Rather than working strictly by trade, plumbers, electricians and carpenters can do whatever tasks they're good at. This allows FCS to deploy labor flexibly and attack steps in the order that makes the most sense. That's a big departure from New York City union construction practices, which mandate ridiculousness like framers finishing all their work before an electrician can even tackle the same area.So here's how it works: Step 1: The warehouse is divided into very clear areas. The first thing that happens is the materials are sorted and delivered to their appropriate locations by a logistics team
Step 2: Someone makes sure that each module set has all of its components (steel beams, sheets of metal, screws, etc.). Along with the materials, there is an instruction diagram, which, according to Forbes "looks an awful lot like IKEA furniture assembly instructions."
Step 3: The steel beams and sheets of metal are assembled into walls and outfitted with all of the electrical and piping.
Step 4: The walls are assembled into mods. The bathroom pods are outfitted with toilets and bathtubs and paneled with an engineered quartz that does not require grout.
Step 5: Assembled mods are trucked to the site and lifted by crane into place.
Step 6: Each mod has a kit of precut pipe connectors "so plumbers don't waste time scrounging for materials," saving time. The press-fit pipes are installed as each level goes up.
[In November, before the first mod was swung into place, Forbes took a tour of the factory with Roger Krulak of Forest City]
All told, it costs about $275,000 to building 1,000-square-foot unit built using the FCS modular method. Using normal construction methods, it costs $330,000 to build a unit of the same size in NYC (in the rest of the country, it only costs $150,000, but that's neither here nor there). Click through to Forbes for more photos inside the factory and more details about the process.
· Lego High-Rise: World's Tallest Modular Apartment Tower Getting Snapped Together In Brooklyn [Forbes]
· The World's Tallest Modular Tower Grows in Atlantic Yards [Curbed]
· Atlantic Yards Tower B2 coverage [Curbed]