Earlier this year, I posted about a 30 story hotel that was erected in 15 days. Now, a subsidiary of that company, Broad Sustainable Building, wants to erect the world’s largest skyscraper in just 90 days. At 2,749 feet tall, the project known as “Sky City” will eclipse Dubai’s Burj Khalifi by some 27 feet. More impressive, it will take approximately five years LESS time to build than Burj Khalifi. The project, located in Changsha, China, is expected to begin foundation work this month, with actual construction beginning in 2013.
Such breakneck speeds for a building of this magnitude is remarkable. When I originally posted about the T30A Hotel Tower, I posited the questions “One has to wonder if this will be imported to the United States? Prefabricated pieces shipped to the United States for assembly on site. Or, will we start to see buildings prefabricated in much the same way, from pieces built in the United States?” Well, it did not take long to answer those questions.
Engineering News-Record is reporting that Forest City Ratner Companies has been given approvals to construct a 322 foot modular residential tower at the Atlantic Yards site, known as the B2 Residential Tower.
The project is also the catalyst for the formation of a modular division within the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, which represents local unions. In a major departure from the norm, the trade council's new division will allow crews from many different trades—electricians, plumbers, ironworkers, carpenters, painters and more—to work together in multi-trade teams in the plant.
Each team will assemble a complete apartment unit. "This is not assembly-line work," says Robert P. Sanna, director of construction and design development for Atlantic Yards' developer, Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC). "Everybody is touching everything within a unit, including the curtain wall, and each crew is responsible for an entire unit."
Gary LaBarbera, the trade council's president, says the new modular division and its new type of collective bargaining agreement address an industry evolving toward modular and make the building trades more competitive against non-union workers. "We're seeing more and more modular units and prefab subassemblies in certain types of buildings," he says. "This concept will be a job creator, not a reducer, and will increase our market share in residential work."
Is modular construction the wave of the future? Modular units made in a factory setting are free from weather delays, boast a higher level of quality control, and are often safer for the worker. Time will ultimately tell if this will be the new normal, or merely a pre-fabricated fad.