NEW YORK CITY-Love it or hate it, modular construction is the way of the future. And, according to Patricia Lancaster, professor, construction management at NYU Schack Institute of Commercial Real Estate, thinks this is certainly a good thing. She is also optimistic about the burgeoning neighborhood around the new Barclays Center here. Read on to hear her thoughts on local developments and construction in 2013. 


GlobeSt: What are your thoughts on modular construction, namely, how will it benefit the commercial real estate industry (if it will)?

I think modular construction is going to be big.  Doing construction indoors in a controlled environment without weather and with the available fabrication technology will make it more economical and higher quality.  Of course, there are some issues to consider.  For instance, where does this fabrication take place, and how does the product get to the site?  What is the maximum size that can be transported, and how much does it cost?  The technology has progressed to the point where some customization is easy, but modular still makes most sense where there are smaller (truckable) repetitive components.  That makes modular more applicable to residential or hospitals than commercial office with the larger spans and open areas.  With that said, all eyes are on Sky City in China.  If that project is successful, it will have developers all over the world demanding as many pre-fabricated or modular elements as possible for their buildings.  But even if it’s not, modular will revolutionize the construction industry the way that laparoscopic surgery has revolutionized the medical industry.

GlobeSt: 2013 has just kicked off and there are a lot of developments under way in New York City. Which project do you think will most benefit the city and why?

The Hudson Yards and other West Side projects will change the face of that entire part of the City, generating revenue and offering unprecedented capacity.  There’s some talk of extending the Highline Park to the north, and if you look at the enormous effect the Highline has had on surrounding property values you get just a taste of the effects of the West Side development over time.

GlobeSt: How do you think the area around Atlantic Yards is going to shape up as a result of the tower there and the Barclays Center?

The area around Atlantic Yards will see a great resurgence.  Some people will just use the arena as a destination, then hop right back on one of the many public transportation modes – but many more will do what Professor Lambeck, Chair of the Construction Management Department here at NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate and I did a few weeks ago, and have a meal at one of the many restaurants in the area before attending an event at the arena.  It’s convenient to get to, and that means people will spend time and money, making local businesses prosper.  

GlobeSt: What do you predict for international construction trends in 2013?

International construction will trend increasingly towards modular, increasingly sustainable and increasingly including infrastructure components that would previously have been done by government.

GlobeSt: In New York City, what is going to be the next hot neighborhood for building and why?

Of course, all of the big developments like Columbia’s Manhattanville, Willett’s Point and Hudson Yards will transform the neighborhoods around them over time in a dramatically positive way.  As far as the next hot neighborhood, I’d look to Seward Park on the Lower East Side.  NYC EDC is set to issue an RFP for a 1.5M square foot mixed use development that will entirely alter the urban fabric in that area.  It is uniquely poised to bring up property values in the surrounding area, which has already seen increased activity moving east across Center Street.  The only unknown is the effect of the City’s study of the food plain elevation on this particular project, and how long it takes to get resolved.