Is Modular Construction the Future of Multifamily Housing? Advantages Include Time Savings and Greater Flexibility

A rendering of Idylls, which was built using modular construction, located on 193 Henry Street (credit: Methanoia)

If you didn't know anything about its history, the building at 193 Henry Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side may seem like your average new luxury condo on the block. However, there is something quite unique about how it was built that just might spark a trend in the city.

As first reported by Curbed earlier this month, the six-story building named Idylls recently topped out, becoming the first luxury condo in Manhattan to be built using modular construction. It's a method in which a home is initially assembled as separate segments (or modules) in an off-site factory, employing the same standards and materials as if the home was built on-site. The pre-assembled parts are then transported to the actual building site and stacked on top of each other, forming one piece -- not unlike building something with Legos. (You can watch a time-lapse video of the building being constructed on-site here).  

Jeffrey Jacobs, the sponsor of the condo project, which was designed by Think! Architecture and spearheaded by 193 Henry Street LLC, tells The Cooperator that he and others had looked at using modular construction for a while. “It made sense on many levels,” Jacobs says. “First, financially, it shortened the construction period, lessening interest to the bank. Secondly, when building in a factory, you can control the quality of the workmanship much more easily without nature being involved.”

Of the project's timetable, Jacobs says building the components off-site required eight weeks; erecting the structure on site took only a couple of days. It will take three months to complete the on-site portion of the build-out. When it is finally finished, he says, the building will consist of six floors: five full-floor homes and a retail space on the ground floor. Each apartment, says Jacobs, will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms containing Russian white oak plank floors, Italian white lacquer kitchens with Viking appliances, and calacatta gold porcelain master baths with white glass counter tops on oak vanities. Though sales have not been launched, Jacobs says that price of the units will start around $2.1 million. (He adds that the modular construction of Idylls was not really a factor in the pricing of units). 

“The response we’ve gotten on the development side is that people actually seem excited,” he says. “One interesting thing that has happened is that the erection of the building actually created community in the neighborhood. People are genuinely enthused, and saying hello every morning now.”


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