Come Christmas, Forest City will make its prefab decision at AY

Eighteen months after Forest City Ratner began publicly considering using modular construction to build the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards, a final decision is nearly in sight. The firm is building a prototype module this month and will decide by Christmas whether to employ the prefabricated method for the 32-story, 930-unit tower, Crain’s reported. If built, it would be the largest prefabricated structure in the world.

The decision hinges, in part, on whether Forest City can get construction unions to accept a 25 percent pay cut to work on the project. Crain’s noted that cutting construction costs is especially important to the developer because by the time all 4,500 rental units are erected on the former rail yards, half of them must be affordable.

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But with the unconventional construction technique comes unique concerns. In the modular process every detail requires “near-constant collaboration” by architects, engineers and construction workers to ensure the pods fit together perfectly when they arrive at the site. In order to ensure that the building can withstand earthquakes, wind and other disasters, the tower will include a steel frame built on the site, and not in the modular construction factories. The ability to work on both components at once will save time and millions of dollars.

Crain’s said the tower would be far different from existing prefabricated structures, not only because it is seven stories taller than the world’s next highest, in England, but also because it is veering from the “stacked shoebox” design typical of modular towers. Instead, Forest City is aiming for high design, according to MaryAnne Gilmartin, the executive vice president overseeing the project. [Crain’s]Adam Fusfeld