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Joint venture picks concrete alternatives for record height tower's modular units

Sources: Skanska USA, New York; CP staff

Preliminary specifications for a residential project anchoring the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn, N.Y., indicate modular apartment units with drywall and steel stud enclosures, plus floors of Versaroc cementitious board and conventional metal decking bearing on a 32-story steel frame.

Skanska and developer Forest City Ratner Cos. have formed a joined venture, FC + Skanska Modular, to supply Atlantic Yards B2, the country’s tallest modular building and, principals note, “a pioneering development that will help advance efficient, safe and sustainable off-site construction.” B2 site work began in December as FC + Skanska Modular proceeded on a 150,000-sq.-ft. unit assembly plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, about 1.5 miles from Atlantic Yards. The plant is scheduled to begin production in April on 930 pre-finished modular units—netting 545 apartments—toward the project’s summer 2014 completion.

Working with Forest City, architect SHoP and engineer Arup, he adds, the project team has created new techniques and systems that will allow the modular units to be assembled by skilled Navy Yard facility workers and trucked to the construction site, where they will be raised by cranes, stacked on each other, and attached to the building’s steel frame. Union workers will fabricate the modular units in the controlled plant environment while protected year round from the weather; Skanska will train them in lean manufacturing methods so fabrication is consistent with detailed work instructions using precision tools and templates.

“Construction is by definition about building,” says Skanska USA CEO Bill Flemming. “With this project, however, and partnership with Forest City and the construction trades, we are also building a new industry that has potential to become New York City’s newest export—a product and  process that can transform how construction is done in this century.”