New York’s tallest modular, micro-apartment building meets Manhattan’s housing needs
Modular construction is by no means new to New York City. Neither are small apartment units (see: 90-square foot apartment). But Carmel Place is proof that modular and micro-unit construction can be successfully rolled into one building in the middle of Manhattan.
The $17 million, nine-story structure slated to open in February will be the city’s tallest modular building and first apartment complex comprised entirely of micro units. But unlike older buildings with funky apartment layouts wrapped around airshafts and dumbwaiters, the Monadnock Development project maximizes the efficiency of its tiny quarters by being the first micro building in the city built with modern design in mind.
“And by modern design I mean having simple things like an adequate amount of electrical outlets in the room,” Tobias Oriwol of Monadnock Construction told us, “or big, clean walls to put a TV on and space for a queen-size bed or dining room table. Our units are small but comfortable and easily furnishable, which is something that is unique in the city.”
The 55-unit project formally known as My Micro NY will offer market-rate rents ranging from $2,650 to $3,150 for apartments with an average of 304-square-feet.
A 750-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in New York City currently rents for approximately $3,400.
Designed by nARCHITECTS, the building has several common areas such as a gym, small lounge, community room, shared roof terrace, bicycle and tenant storage and an outdoor garden. Most of the floor plans in Carmel Place feature about 240-square-feet of open living space as well as a 30-square-foot bathroom and 30-square-foot vestibule. Twenty-five units come furnished complete with the Murphy bed-sofa combo seen below.
“Much of the project focuses on livability of a space despite size limitations,” nARCHITECTS Designer Tony Saba-Shiber told us via email, “and maximizing usable area through intelligent and efficient design.”
Construction began in a Brooklyn warehouse before ground was broken on the site in the Spring of 2014. Modular manufacturer Capsys Corp, a subsidiary of Monadnock, prefabricated the steel-framed modules with concrete slabs. Assembled by 50 workers in about eight or nine months, the modules include toilets, plumbing fixtures, bathroom tile, doors, sprinklers, windows and kitchen cabinetry before they are shipped to the site. A coat of primer is even put on the walls.
“We keep the things out of the modules that are most likely to break in transportation,” Oriwol said. “In this particular project we had glass backsplashes in the kitchen that we installed in the field and then we have a floating wood floor that we are installing in the field too.”
Traditional construction methods were employed for the foundations, utilities and first-floor. Then, the modules were shipped to the job site, stacked with a crane and bolted together. The units took about four weeks to install. Construction workers built stairs and elevators as well as a brick facade, and are currently putting the finishing touches on the 35,000 square-foot project.
At about $340 to $360 per square foot to construct, Oriwol said this particular project hasn’t provided major costs savings compared to traditional construction. But he said it has saved time and improved quality since a major chunk of the work is done in a warehouse that is cleaner than a construction site and less crowded. Carmel Place is on track to finish in 22 months but would’ve taken less than 20 months if they didn’t unexpectedly encounter rock while excavating the site. Oriwol said using traditional construction methods would’ve taken closer to 25 months.
“The biggest benefit is that you are spending less time on the site,” he said. “And the warehouse is a safer, more controlled environment. There are also no weather delays.”
Carmel Place was also part of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to alleviate New York City’s housing crunch. While approximately 1.8 million, or 60 percent, of households in New York City comprise of one- and two-people, there’s only about one million studios and one-bedrooms available in New York’s housing stock.
In an effort to solve that housing challenge, the project won a city-sponsored architecture competition in 2013 to build innovative micro-unit housing called the adAPT NYC competition. After winning the contest, Carmel Place was granted a mayoral override to the building code prohibiting apartment units smaller than 400-square-feet in New York City. That fact alone gives Saba-Shiber hope that city officials will allow more micro-unit buildings to be constructed across Manhattan.
“This is the city’s initiative,” he said. “This prototype is meant to help understand the possibilities that exist if this code is changed.”
But Saba-Shiber said the concepts employed in the construction of Carmel Place can not only help alleviate the significant lack of studio and one-bedroom apartments in New York, but also beyond, in cities such as Boston and San Francisco.