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World's largest prefab tower: how it will be built

Posting in Architecture

Prefabricated construction is part fad, part feature, and all future.

The idea of building enormous structures -- from homes to high-rises -- in pieces and then integrating them into their intended form saves money (build in the comfort of your own factory!), time (adverse weather conditions, no problem!) and energy (less wasted material!). That's why this architectural approach is becoming more present with each passing year.

For the better part of a decade, the New York City borough of Brooklyn has seen the slow construction of "Atlantic Yards," a massive multi-use development that includes a sports stadium, office buildings and residential towers atop the area's largest public transit hub. So far, only the stadium has been built, but with that completed developer Forest City Ratner is moving on to the next phase of the project.

We wrote last year that the first of 15 towers, a 32-story structure named "B2," would reportedly be built using modular construction, which may make it the world's largest prefabricated building. (It appears to be taller than the 30-story prefab tower recently completed in 90 days in Changsha, China.) Today, U.S. real estate website Curbed confirms it: the tower will consist of 930 modules, built offsite at a nearby former naval yard, that will be knit together after only 18 months -- another perk of prefab construction.

(The tower was designed by SHoP Architects and will be put together by Skanska, the Swedish construction giant.)

A bit more from Curbed's Jessica Dailey:

Forest City partnered with Skanska to create the modules, which measure roughly 14 feet wide, 35 feet long, and 10 feet tall, and are equipped with electric lines, plumbing, kitchens, toilets, and exterior facades. They can be opened up and connected to make larger units, and they can have completely different interiors. For those worried that that tower will look like a stack of Legos, modular buildings can have normal facades, and Forest City plans to use a variety of materials and colors to create "an intricate play of light, pattern and texture."

The final product will include 363 apartments, as well as various communal areas, such as a fitness room and lounge.

For many years, prefab construction was looked down upon as a cheap, no-frills way to put together structures. For cities, it might be a better way to build big.

Images: SHoP Architects (rendering); Forest City Ratner (slide)

— By on November 27, 2012, 11:43 PM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure