Very à la Mod: Atlantic Yards Places First Modular Units for B2 Tower

A rendering of B2

Reporters, PR men and honchos from Forest City Ratner and modular manufacturer Skanska gathered today in the cold and considerable shadow of Barclay’s Center to witness the hoisting into place of the first of the modular units in Atlantic Yards’ B2 residential tower, which aims to become the world’s tallest modular building upon its completion, slated for late next year. Of the tower’s 363 units, 181 will qualify as affordable housing—a considerable figure in terms of both quantity and percentage, particularly in comparison to prevailing proportions of market rate/affordable units included in new city construction.

The building schedule called today for the placement of three adjacent “mods,” Skanska’s Elizabeth Miller told The Observer, which together will compose a single apartment. Appliances, fixtures and plumbing had already been installed; all that remained to make the habitat functional was to tie into the building’s central electrical and water lines, which have yet to arrive. No word was forthcoming on whether the apartment assembled today might be one of those destined for affordable rental rates.

Skanska, a multinational construction and development giant, has been involved in modular developments in Europe for some 56 years, Ms. Miller said, and has entered the modular market in the US primarily by building hospitals. Fabricated off-site under controlled conditions, modular units provide safer, higher-quality, more efficient and sustainable alternatives to traditional modes of construction, she claimed. (Manufacture of B2 components takes place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.) Still, Americans have shown less modular enthusiasm than their European counterparts, and Ms. Miller has, she said, been hard at work “myth-busting.”

Shortly after 1 p.m., Bruce Ratner arrived on the scene, hatted against sub-freezing temperatures, and high above, seated in a crane of fire-engine red, an operator prepared for action. Minutes earlier, construction workers had climbed atop the mod in question (another had been slotted in ahead of the media’s arrival), to tighten lengths of chain and the mod—a rectangular, 15-ton affair roughly resembling a shipping containing—hovered and swayed just above the ground.

Mod making (Nelson Bakerman)
Mod making (Nelson Bakerman)

The crane lifted and the mod rose, turning in accordance with the machine’s slow swivel. The crowd on the corner cheered; someone observed that a stirring score would not have been inappropriate to the moment. In the windows of Barclay’s Center, a sign affixed to the mod’s protective wrapping was reflected: Made in Brooklyn. As the mod lowered, men in orange pinnies guided it into place using tethers attached at its corners. The scene suggested a very complicated act of parallel parking.

As the construction crew made small, imperceptible final adjustments, the mood on the corner was convivial. Some reporters had dispersed, and most of the remaining spectators seemed to be somehow professionally connected to Atlantic Yards. They hugged, smiled, took photos and shook hands. Everyone congratulated everyone else, relieved, perhaps, to have something to celebrate. Very à la Mod: Atlantic Yards Places First Modular Units for B2 Tower