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Bit By Bit, Builders Come To Appreciate Modular Construction

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Modular construction may soon catch on in the city, but a Brooklyn factory has been building homes, floor to ceiling, for 16 years. NY1's Monica Brown filed the following report.

Modular construction can have a house almost entirely built in a factory. The pieces are brought on trucks to their final destination, and the finishing touches can be done on-site. This method could mean big cost savings for the Big Apple, where experts say construction costs are skyrocketing.

"Housing is becoming out of reach for too many New Yorkers," says New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson. "And if this could bring down the cost somewhat, then a significant sector of the New York City population might have a chance to buy or to rent an apartment."

In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Capsys Corp. has been building modular homes for 16 years in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Its affordable housing units, assisted living facilities, hotels and more other buildings are dropped off at sites in all five boroughs and beyond.

Company officials say the average savings can be 5 to 20 percent with modular construction, and that business has been picking up a lot in the last several years.

"Some of that is because we're coming out of the recession and we're seeing more activity, but a lot of is it really is just catching on. We like to say that we're the oldest brand-new idea in construction," says Tom O'Hara, the director of marketing at Capsys.

Forest City Ratner Corporation might also be trying to change minds. It announced last year that it may look to build the world's largest modular tower at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The company declined to be interviewed for this story.

But New York Building Congress officials tell NY1 that project, and other modulars like it, might go a long way toward helping to keep New York's building industry competitive.

"Innovation in the construction industry is always important because we're the highest cost construction market in the country, and we are encouraging our members to look for ways to economize, to look to do things differently, and in a better way," says Anderson.

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