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Modular construction developer proves concept in NYC, eyes Florida for growth

Modular construction developer proves concept in NYC, eyes Florida for growth
A pre-constructed module is hoisted by crane during construction of a 32-story tower in the Pacific Park complex in Brooklyn. A prefabricated hotel may be in the works for the Orlando area. (Full Stack Modular)

A 33-story prefabricated steel building recently completed in Brooklyn, N.Y., could become the model for future high-rise construction around the world, and in the Greater Orlando area.

The tower at 461 Dean St. in Brooklyn is made almost entirely of rectangular modules, produced in a factory and assembled on-site. The guiding force behind the building was Roger Krulak, then an executive with Forest City Ratner Cos.

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Krulak, now founder and CEO of Full Stack Modular, is following up on his success in Brooklyn with potential contracts for at least three new buildings in the New York area. And he has his sights set on even wider horizons.

"You will be excited to know we are talking to some people in Florida about building some hotels there," Krulak told GrowthSpotter on Friday. Orlando is among the possible sites for a Full Stack-constructed hotel, he said. Other potential sites are Tampa, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

Krulak claims to have "cracked the code" to building high-rise, modular buildings. If he's right, pre-fabricated buildings could be a force to be reckoned with in densely-populated, high-growth areas like metro Orlando.

Total construction costs for a modular building can be 75-85 percent of the cost for a traditional structure. The time it takes to build a high-rise building would be similarly reduced, Krulak said.

"There is a significant aggregate savings to cost of construction and development due to the time saved, early revenue recognition, safety on site, the amount of management on site and the insurance saved because there are fewer workers on site," Krulak said.

Until now, modular construction was mostly confined to one- and two-story buildings. Taller buildings require steel frames to help the building withstand heavy winds or earthquakes, and to keep the structure from toppling under its own weight. Under traditional practices, the steel structures are erected on-site and the buildings built around them.

But in the Brooklyn high-rise and other buildings Krulak is planning, the modules are installed and then bolted together with pre-manufactured, crossed brace frames.

"We needed to develop a methodology to do all that in the (manufacturing) process," Krulak said. "Mods add brace frames that are bolted together on site; we don't build the brace frame and stack the modules between it."

One of the reasons that modular construction saves time and money is that the main components of the building can be manufactured while the site is being prepped, and the foundation is being poured.

As much as 80-90 percent of the building is manufactured and then assembled at the construction site. That includes stairwells and elevator shafts.

Krulak said the process would work especially well for today's popular mixed-use projects, which have one or two floors of retail, commercial or office space, topped by apartments or condos. The residential component could be manufactured while the commercial space is built using conventional construction.

"You could potentially save 50 percent," he said.

Modular buildings are also lighter than traditional structures, so the foundations needed to carry them will be less costly, Krulak said.

Dimensions of the modules usually measure 30-35 feet long and 10-15 feet wide, or 300 to 450 square feet each. A one-bedroom apartment usually takes two modules; a two-bedroom would take three of the pods.

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Modular construction is taking off in other countries, especially in Asia. Krulak said he recently returned from a 10-day trip to Malaysia where four modular towers are either completed or under construction.

One of the buildings yet to be completed will be 40 floors, thus dethroning Krulak's Brooklyn creation as the tallest prefab building in the world.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at msalinero@outlook.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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