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The 461 Dean modular failure gets downplayed again (in NY Times roundup)

On the front page of tomorrow''s Sunday Times Real Estate section, an article headlined Real Estate Technology: Try, Try Again (and in print "The Future Is Now, Maybe"), with a section on modular construction:
Roger Krulak, the chief executive of Full Stack Modular, likes to point out that with conventional building methods “almost every construction project is past deadline and over budget.” And he asks: “What other industry could survive that?”
Krulak, of course, worked on the Atlantic Yards modular housing plan as an executive for Forest City Ratner before buying the new modular firm--originally FCS Modular, involving partner Skanska, then FC Modular--for an unannounced sum, perhaps a fire sale.

So that rhetoric, much like that before the very flawed effort to build B2 (461 Dean), should be taken with a grain of salt. And this rather tame account should be checked against my more critical February 2017 roundup article for TreeHugger.

Saving money?

The Times interviews Krulak:
The solution, he said, is off-site construction, in which factory-made steel modules — outfitted with electrical and plumbing systems, high-end finishes and even elaborate facades — can be stacked on site, like Legos, in about 70 percent of the time it would take for conventional builders to complete a high-rise tower, and with considerably less waste. Plus, since the manufacturing is done indoors, weather delays and safety concerns are reduced.
That professed 30 percent savings in time should be benchmarked by example, since not every project--notably 461 Dean--works out that way.

Lower-paid workers

From the article;
Part of the technology’s appeal is that it is less reliant on highly skilled workers. Using technology from the aerospace industry, a robotic camera in Full Stack’s 85,000-square-foot factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard can measure within two-thousandths of an inch, while most contractors might settle for a two-inch margin. During on-site assembly, the company deploys a drone camera that uses photogrammetry, a series of precise surveying-image measurements, to ensure the modules are correctly stacked.
Translation: less skilled workers are paid less. But the supposed measuring technology did not work with 461 Dean.

461 Dean a "blunder"

From the article:
Of course, there have been blunders along the way. The 32-story rental tower at 461 Dean Street, in the Pacific Park complex in Brooklyn, completed in 2016 and now fully leased, was supposed to be a paragon of high-rise modular design. Instead, the project dragged on for four years amid technical snafus and a dispute between the developer, Forest City Ratner, and its partner, Skanska, which ran the modular operation. Thanks, in part, to the delays and high costs, Forest City sold the 363-unit building and left the modular business.
A blunder, or worse? "Technical snafus" is a pretty broad term for leaks, mold, and the need to gut numerous units.

Some candor

From the article:
“It was a mess,” said Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, adding that the tower was too big and complex for a prefab construction project. Mr. Krulak, who also worked on it, admitted there were miscues in the process.
Ah, Glen speaks notable candor: the tower was too ambitious, both in height and in variety of modules, as others have acknowledged. Krulak admitting "miscues" is pretty minor, compared to what actually happened.

SHoP goes its own way

From the article
SHoP Architects, the award-winning firm that designed 461 Dean, has plans for another project. The architects have partnered with the venture capital firm Tectonic Capital to fund an as-yet unnamed company to navigate the entire modular process — from design and manufacture to on-site assembly — and plan to bring the building to market in 2019.
That's interesting. SHoP is certainly award-winning, but not regarding 461 Dean. Presumably a successful relationship with the company it worked with on the latter tower would have led to future collaboration. Instead, SHoP has a new partner.

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