Modular construction takes a bite out of the Big Apple at NY Build 2016

New York Build 2016

We took a bite out of the Big Apple last week at New York Build 2016 with our construction partner Axis Construction.

Modular construction loves New York. Something we recognized early into the conference was the impact that our industry can have on the New York construction scene. We were unfortunately rooted to our booth for most of the two-day event, but picked up on some of the buzz in conversations and on Twitter. Here are a few of our initial thoughts.

Women in Construction

The conference kicked off on March 7, one day into national Women in Construction Week and one day before International Women’s Day. That first day ended with a great panel highlighting women in the industry.

We’ve noticed that while construction is still a male dominated field, more women are taking leadership roles. NRB’s own VP of Sales & Marketing, Laurie Robert, who was recognized by the Modular Building Institute (MBI) as a female industry leader, was the first woman and first Canadian to serve as the MBI president in 2001. We’re looking forward to a future where women play more of a role in everything from trades to the C-suite.

Affordable Housing

The affordable housing panel was another example of a modular construction opportunity. Micro apartments, which have been touted as a way to make New York City more affordable for single people and seniors, are a perfect fit for off-site construction. Thankfully, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new zoning proposal increases building heights, making modular construction of micro apartments more feasible. Since each module comes complete with a floor and ceiling, building heights need to be increased to allow the same number of stories when built off site.

Architects and Modular

Architects were out in full force at the “Meet the Architects” panel. We’ve found architects can be modular’s most vehement supporters and its most vocal detractors. Architects who love modular designs recognize that almost any project goal and architectural vision can be accomplished by a building that is constructed off site—and in 30 to 50 per cent less time than conventional construction. Architects that don’t support modular are often concerned that off-site construction puts limitations on design and creativity.

We’re always happy to wade in on this debate—we’ve worked with some incredible architects who have become modular construction champions. In 2013, the Modular Building Institute and Pratt School of Architecture co-hosted a modular construction summit in Brooklyn to provide information on some of the pressing concerns about modular, including cost, quality and aesthetics, in the hopes of increasing the number of architects willing to try modular.

Disaster Preparedness

Superstorm Sandy’s legacy is still being felt in New York. The panel on upcoming opportunities for contractors focused on the NYCHA’s Office of Disaster Recovery, which is offering over $3 billion in disaster recovery funding to rebuild stronger and smarter. Interestingly, the New York City Office of Emergency Management is currently testing a multi-family, multi-story prototype that can house residents following a natural or human-induced disaster. The prototype uses modular construction and can be deployed in different configurations in less than 15 hours. We wish that we’d had time to take a tour of the prototype, which received the Professional Notable honor at the 2015 Core77 Design Awards. Read more about it here.

New York Build 2016 has us energized and we look forward to continuing the great conversations we started at our booth. Contact us to discuss the possibilities modular construction offers to architectural design, disaster preparedness and affordable housing—and to meet our very own woman in construction, Laurie Robert!