Though the domestic modular construction industry has been growing over the past several decades, it is only recently that US designers and builders have started taking sky-scraping cues from overseas projects. New York City’s Atlantic Yards development is a prime example, as it is targeted to be the tallest modular structure in the world, surpassing England’s University of Wolverhampton’s 25-story dormitory, completed in 2009.
These two projects notwithstanding, modular construction that reaches for the sky isn’t relegated to the US and UK. The Asian market went tall the in Hunan Province with high-rise modular projects courtesy of developer Zhang Yue, whose company erected a 30-story modular building over 15 days in 2011, a feat that was captured in a powerful time-lapse video.
Even now the Broad Group in China has signed a deal to erect a 100-story prefab building in the city of Yinchuan, while plans for Sky City, a 220-story modular skyscraper remain on hold. When complete, Sky City will be the tallest building in the world.
So why is North America borrowing these “go big or go home” ideas its international modular counterparts?
- Cost Effectiveness
High rise doesn’t mean high cost. Offsite assembly of modular components, even for tall structures, consistently offers significantly lower design, material, and construction costs than traditional onsite builds.
- Energy Efficiency
Yue has shown that his ambitious projects adhere to principles of energy efficiency and material sustainability. A born-again environmentalist, Yue maintains that an energy conscious vision is realized with every modular project he completes.
- Space Maximization
When construction can no longer go out, it goes up. In the case of Wolverhampton, and now Atlantic Yards, it is going higher than any other modular structure currently standing.
As modular construction continues to grow in popularity and design sophistication, it’s no coincidence that North America, Europe, and Asia are competing for top honors. With world populations expanding, international tourism increasing annually, and attractive commercial land in decreasing supply, modular architects and designers on the three continents are collectively racing against time to build better and smarter and, sometimes, skyward.