Monday, July 21, 2014

Modular Construction in NYC

An Associated Press story embedded on Architectural Record's website reports that the "First Modular Apartment Building in NYC Opens." The building of focus is GLUCK+'s The Stack, located near Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan:

[The Stack | Photograph from GLUCK+ website]

The AP article also mentions nARCHITECTS' micro-dwellings at Kips Bay and SHoP's high-profile B2 BKLYN 32-story modular apartment building, the first tower in the Atlantic Yards development, now under construction:

[B2 BKLYN | Rendering from SHoP's website]

In the article's desire to label firsts ("first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in the nation's apartment capital") is the omission of Nehemiah Spring Creek, what could be argued as the first modular housing in New York City. Designed by Alexander Gorlin, and completed in 2008 (Phase 1, with all 3 phases completed by 2013), the project in East New York, Brooklyn, used modular units to erect townhouses rather than stacked apartments:

[Nehemiah Spring Creek | Photographs courtesy of Alexander Gorlin Architects]

I think Nehemiah Spring Creek is often left out of discussions about modular residential construction in NYC because of aesthetics – it is not as contemporary looking as The Stack or B2 BKLYN or nARCHITECTS' micro-dwellilngs – and because of scale; it seems to straddle urban and suburban conditions in its size and site in East New York, a very low-income part of Brooklyn.

One area where Nehemiah Spring Creek beats The Stack (not in terms of firsts, mind you) is in the distance traveled from factory to site. The Stack's modular units were built by DeLuxe Building in Berwick, PA, 140 miles from the site in Inwood. On the other hand, Gorlin's design was built by Capsys in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, just over 7 miles from East New York. (Likewise, B2 is being built by the new company FC + Skanska Modular in the Navy Yard, less than 2 miles away.) These numbers are just as important as those cited in the AP article on The Stack (cost of construction, time saved versus conventional construction), as they get at the value of building modular in NYC, not just for NYC.