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Green Building News

World’s Tallest Modular Tower Opens

The 32-story residential building in New York City was constructed from modular units built off-site

The world's tallest modular tower took longer to build than developers had anticipated and generated a couple of lawsuits along the way. But the developer believes the lessons it provided for modular construction will be invaluable.
Image Credit: Forest City Ratner Companies

The tallest modular building in the world, a 32-story residential tower, has opened its doors in New York City.

There are 363 apartments at 461 Dean, part of a 22-acre development called Pacific Park Brooklyn that ultimately will include 6 million square feet of residential space and 6,430 units of housing. It was constructed at the intersection of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn next to one of the city’s major transportation hubs.

Half of the units at 461 Dean have been set aside for low- and middle-income families, with studios starting at $559 a month (two-bedroom units at $727), according to an article posted at Wired. Affordable housing in New York City is in such short supply that 84,000 people submitted applications for the 181 affordable units this summer. Housing was assigned by lottery.

According to the project’s website, market-rate studio apartments start at $2,450; two-bedroom units start at $4,750 a month.

The building was constructed to meet the LEED-Silver standard, but the developer did not list any particular energy-efficiency features, such as added insulation or extra measures to reduce air leaks.

Teething problems for modular building

The building — developed by Forest City Ratner Companies and designed by SHoP Architects — was constructed of modular units manufactured at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and moved to the site by truck. The building was an important test of how modular construction could make urban housing more affordable, Wired said, with Forest City originally predicting it would be ready for occupancy in 18 months and cost 20% less than a tower built conventionally.

It didn’t work out that way. Construction ran two years behind schedule as the manufacturer, Skanska, struggled to develop the 960 different modules that would be needed to complete the building. The site itself also posed problems because it was triangular in shape, which resulted in triangular modules and added construction complexity.

“In an effort to show modular has endless possibilities, we probably went a little overboard on the complexity,” Roger Krulak, who oversaw Forest City’s modular business, told Wired.

As problems mounted, Forest City sued Skanska. Skanska returned the favor by suing Forest City, and Forest City ended up buying the module factory from Skanska. It has since sold the modular operation to Krulak, who founded a new company called Full Stack Modular.

Even though the 461 Dean experiment wasn’t as successful as developers had hoped, Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin said the effort will help others develop complex modular buildings in the future, Wired said.

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