Home > Structures

Raising Modular Construction to New Heights

Raising Modular Construction to New Heights

By Luke Carothers

As the designers of the built environment, the AEC industry is in the constant process of assessing and responding to the needs of the communities we support.  In the United States, the AEC industry’s ability to respond to issues like climate change and housing shortages is partially hampered by our current level of emissions.  While communities struggle to meet the demand for housing, traditional building solutions mean that new building projects will likely incur a large carbon footprint.  Solutions such as modular building have a tremendous potential to lessen the carbon footprint necessary to respond to issues such as housing shortages.

One of the people leading the way in developing modular solutions to respond to these challenges is Roger Krulak, who is the Founder and President of FullStack Modular, a design-manufacture-construct solution for mid and high rise multifamily buildings.  Krulak has spent most of his career in construction development, having worked as a contractor and developer.  During his career, Krulak has built everything from multifamily housing to data centers to steel plants.  Frustrated with the process of construction and development throughout this time, Krulak decided to begin exploring modular construction.  

In his years prior to founding FullStack Modular, Krulak developed the understanding that the way we build or create the built environment is “grossly inefficient.”  This led to frustrations with wasted time, material, space, and money.  In this environment, Krulak began to explore options that would eliminate inefficiencies in the construction and development process.  This exploration was spurred by a project he worked in a development position.  This New York City developer had a commitment to build 22,000 housing units in Brooklyn, of which 6,500 were to be affordable housing.  At the same time, the industry was experiencing the effects of the Great Repression, which led to volatility in the construction market.  These challenges provided the perfect opportunity for Krulak to research and develop a solution, which turned out to be high rise, fully volumetric modular buildings.  With this solution, Krulak helped to develop the tallest modular building in North America.

The solution developed by Krulak on this project became the impetus for the founding of FullStack Modular.  Described as “very different”, the approach taken by Krulak and FullStack views modular construction as a holistic solution.  Typically, mid- to high-rise modular solutions rely on conventionally-built, on-site cores in which “mods are tied together and used as the shear and moment connections.”  FullStack Modular’s solution for mid- to high- rise projects, on the other hand, is “fully vertical,” according to Krulak.  When FullStack Modular’s solution is place on a foundation–whether plinth, steel platform, parking lot, etc.–everything above that level is fully modular.  This means that all building elements, from the facade down to the hallway finishes, are hauled up via elevator and connected to the set.  This system allows FullStack to build taller modular solutions than anyone else, including buildings up to 65 stories.

This development in modular building solutions is crucial in response to the housing shortage in many parts of the United States and around the world.  According to Krulak, modular solutions are a key part of shrinking the housing demand in these areas.  Krulak points out that, while housing demand seems to be growing everywhere, industrialized solutions for housing yield results as much as 50 percent faster on a design build basis.  From a wider perspective, however, Krulak believes that these modular solutions will be crucial in the fight against climate change.  When it comes to creating more sustainable cities, modular solutions are suited to creating high density, transit-oriented buildings that connect communities with transit and other services.  Krulak notes that, compared to traditional building processes, modular building solutions generate far less waste, which makes creating these buildings more sustainable.  Furthermore, modular building solutions have the capacity to be organized and connected, which makes it easier to monitor the performance of critical infrastructure systems.  Krulak believes that this ability to “test everything all the time” will ultimately provide an advantage to the end user.  This constant process of QA-QC results in a much lower carbon footprint.

When it comes to the end user, modular construction solutions ultimately provide additional benefits for the people in these communities.  Not only are modular projects completed 50 percent faster, they require less scaffolding which results in 70 percent less neighborhood disruption.  Furthermore, the industrialized process means projects are completed with more certainty in terms of time and money.  As the AEC industry continues to develop solutions to meet the challenges of tomorrow, modular construction solutions, like the work done by FullStack, represent a promising solution to commonly held problems.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.