Modular Building Projects of the Moment

Modular building, which can save time and money, is catching on.

Suddenly, it seems, modular construction is all the rage, and for good reason: According to the Modular Building Institute, projects can be completed 30 percent to 50 percent sooner than with traditional construction, in part because building construction can occur at the same time as site and foundation work. Offsite construction can also reduce accidents and injuries as well as construction waste.

According to a report from 360 Market Updates, North America modular construction should see an annual growth of 5.69 percent between 2018 and 2023. Attention-getting projects like the three below are blazing the way.

CitizenM New York Bowery Hotel

Modular construction is favored by hotel company citizenM, which owns and operates nine hotels in Europe and is in the process of developing 14 more. Here in the United States it’s nearing completion on a 20-story, 300-room hotel in Manhattan’s lower east side. While the original plan called for a 100,000-square-foot poured-in-place concrete structure, the company ultimately decided to go the modular route.

A Polish company built the 210 modular sections and shipped them to New York, where they were trucked to the site and stored. (Although the use of modular construction has reduced the number of material deliveries to the site, neighbors have complained about the traffic delays caused by storing the modules in a traffic lane.)

Other hotel companies are turning to modular construction as well. Marriott International announced last May that in 2017 it expected to sign 50 deals for hotels that incorporated prefabricated guestrooms or bathrooms. That trend will continue in 2018; in Glendale, Arizona, for example, Marriott is working with developers on a modular-built, dual-branded Courtyard/TownePlace Suites hotel.

Google’s Prefabricated Homes

Concerned about the shortage of housing for its workers in San Francisco, Google’s parent company Alphabet is negotiating a deal to buy 300 modular apartment units from Factory OS. The apartments will serve as temporary housing for new employees.

Factory OS will build the modular units in its new 250,000-square-foot space on Mare Island in Vallejo, California. It is the largest modular building factory in the United States. Each module should take about five days to complete, and with multiple production lines, Factory OS expects to produce four modules — with all interior finishes completed — per day.

The company claims its modular construction technique enables it to produce homes 40 percent faster than conventional construction while reducing costs by about 20 percent.

Oakland High Rise: 1433 Webster

On the West Coast, RAD Urban will soon begin construction of a modular-built, mixed-use residential high rise at 1433 Webster Street in Oakland, California. The company’s first plan for the site drew criticism, but RAD Urban won planning-commission approval after it introduced a revised design in July 2017.

The 29-story tower will transform Oakland’s low skyline, as it will rise 350 feet into the air. It will include 176 residential units within its 310,570 square-feet.

According to the RAD Urban website, its Type I modular systems, engineered to stack more than 30 stories high, are a technological breakthrough. The company also points out other advantages of modular building, including a factory labor force that is twice as productive as jobsite workers and has a much better safety record.


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

Photo Credit: RAD Urban

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