The Real Deal New York

Why Forest City’s modular design may not be the future

Stalled B2 BKLYN tower raising questions about feasibility of large pre-fab construction
October 27, 2014 10:01AM

The stalled modular tower in Brooklyn has industry insiders asking the question: is modular construction at a large scale possible?

Construction of B2 BKLYN, a proposed tower built in the lego-esque modular technology, is at a standstill after developer Forest City Ratner Companies and construction company Skanska USA sued each other. While Forest City blames the execution of the plan, Skanska claimed the design was faulty, according to the Wall Street Journal. The work was shut down with only 10 stories built.

Skanska claimed, in a letter in which the company describes its frustrations with the new development, that the building could leak at the thousands of joints between the different pieces that would make up the structure.

For some, the stalled development is proof that it will be hard for modular construction — which is a cheaper alternative to regular construction — to become part of the mainstream.

Others are still hopeful that more projects will be constructed that way and point to modular towers that have been completed successfully in China and the United Kingdom.

“We’ll get there, I’m just not sure we’re there yet,” James Garrison, principal at Garrison Architects told the newspaper. “It’s like when you build an automobile. You know the fan belt has to clear the frame, the gas line has to have places to go—all of these things have to be integrated.” [WSJ] — Claire Moses

  • Marc

    Everything has its good and bad. Modular constructionhas been a terrific thing for many years and is more precise than the other way. Large homebuilders wouldn’t consider any other way and can build comparably more flawless homes and quicker and with much less site maintenance. It’s the way to go. Don’t know what the problems are here as accusations are flying from both ends but this like most things will pass. There’s is an economic need for this.

  • Maria

    Modular construction is actually more expensive, the savings is on the schedule.

    • James

      Are you saying that savings on a schedule are not savings on cost? (Think of all of the overhead costs that are billed on a durational basis).

      • Maria

        Yes. With Modular construction you are actually getting MORE construction. Once the boxes are set you then build a facades on top of it. We are seeing modular being 7-9% more expensive than regular stick built construction. In this case specifically there may be a savings because it is not wood framed construction, but for the 5-6 story wood frame apartment buildings we have completed the savings has been on the schedule, letting the owner recognize their rental revenue faster.