Modular construction brings affordable housing to many New Yorkers

After city officials waived certain zoning and density regulations, modular microunits smaller than 400 square feet are springing up in New York.

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March 03, 2015 |
Williams Scotsman
Modular construction brings affordable housing to many New Yorkers

Lower Manhattan viewed from Brooklyn. Photo: Vik Waters/Wikimedia Commons

In an overpopulated urban area such as New York City, space is a hot commodity. While many of us can’t imagine living in a unit that resembles the square footage of a closet or mudroom, for many New Yorkers a few hundred square feet of living space works just fine.

The Real Estate section of The New York Times recently featured a story on micro-apartments, which utilize modular construction. The concept offers smaller scale apartment space for individuals at a reasonable cost. My Micro NY is the city’s first micro-apartment complex located at 335 East 27th Street. The modular apartments are currently being manufactured offsite at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and will be stacked in place on the lower east side of Manhattan this spring. 

The apartment complex has many single New Yorkers excited and envisioning a future that doesn’t include living with roommates. My Micro NY will include 55 units ranging from 260 to 360 square feet. The city waived current zoning and density regulations, which limit apartments to no less than 400 square feet, to move this project forward. The units will come with kitchenettes, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, nine foot high ceilings and large windows. The great thing about smaller modular living spaces is they are cost effective to build, which translates to more affordable housing for tenants.

For those of us working in the commercial construction industry, we’ve long understood the benefits of modular building. It’s thrilling to see modular construction as a modern building solution for the multi-housing sector. When it comes to multi-unit housing we have a wealth of experience building remote accommodations for employees working in the energy field. In fact, we addressed this service in a recent blog post

My Micro NY includes some of the best practices learned from workforce housing. Taking a queue from this sector, micro-apartments also put a premium on shared space. This new apartment complex features a fitness center, rooftop garden and a laundry room. As with modular workforce accommodations, amenities can make all the difference in smaller housing complexes. 

Of course New York is not the only city where the benefits of modular are being realized. Seattle is also at the forefront of the micro-apartment movement. You may have seen coverage about the aPodments that can be leased for a minimum of three months.

With modular going mainstream it’s important to reexamine why this building approach is viable for a variety of projects. According to the

Modular Building Institute (MBI) modular building is greener, faster and simply smarter than conventional construction methods. It’s inherently more sustainable because the factory-controlled process generates less waste, creates fewer site disturbances and allows for tighter construction.

It’s faster because the construction of modular buildings occurs simultaneously with site work, allowing projects to be completed in half the time of traditional construction. It’s smarter because the majority of construction is completed inside a factory, which eliminates delays from inclement weather. Modular buildings are also built to meet or exceed the same building codes and standards as site-built structures, and the same architect-specified materials used in conventionally constructed buildings are used in modular construction projects – wood, concrete and steel.

As My Micro NY demonstrates, modular offers limitless design possibilities. Who can argue with that?

Williams Scotsman | The Modular Zone with Williams Scotsman

Williams Scotsman, an Algeco Scotsman company, offers space solutions for the energy, construction, industrial, education, commercial/retail, healthcare, and government markets, with operations in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Williams Scotsman serves customers’ modular space and storage needs through a network of nearly 100 locations throughout North America. In addition to its core leasing business, the company manages and develops permanent modular structures. To learn more about us, head to www.willscot.com

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