Friday, August 2, 2013

Stacks on Stacks: Apt Building Rises in 19 Days

Prefab construction has made a spectacular entrance in New York City. Nineteen days. That is all the time it took to put up a 28-unit, seven-story apartment building in the Inwood section of Manhattan this summer. This summer, prefab is yielding its first real fruits. The secret? Modular construction. The Stack, a 38,000-square-foot project comprised of 56 modules, was constructed on a 50x150 foot lot at Broadway and Academy Street, and is one of more than 17 modular projects underway in the city.

Working Monday through Friday from June 20 to July 18, a crew of just eight iron workers, a crane operator, and half-a-dozen helpers installed the 56 modules that make up the apartment building at 4857 Broadway.

Each 12-foot-wide prefabricated box was easily guided by the workers with a slight push, as it was suspended from a crane.

In a bow to the property's innovative construction technique, the building is to be known as The Stack. It was created by a partnership of developer/builder Jeffrey M. Brown Associates and Gluck+ architects.

Despite the touted economy of off-site, prefabricated housing, the methodology has made limited inroads in New York, stunted for decades by bureaucracy and a public that preferred flashy condominium projects.

Recently, interest in modular construction is catching on in a big way. That interest grew more urgent after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the city, leading officials to re-examine prefab disaster-housing schemes.

Part of modular construction's appeal of is that by building in a factory, the modules—as well as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and others building them—are protected from the elements, which helps ensure quality control and quicker construction. Door bells, lights, switches, bathrooms, tiles, kitchens, everything's in there already - even the first coat of paint.

And when it comes time to put the pieces together, a building can blossom in just a few weeks.

In the case of The Stack, it only took a few months to prepare the site and lay the foundations, and all the while crews were busy building the modules at a factory in Pennsylvania. The small modules do mean low ceilings, however—necessary, in part, to make it across the bridge to the city.

Watch slideshow below