Project Profile: Modular Structures by American Direct

This article was originally published in American Direct Single Source Review Magazine. They have graciously given us permission to post on our blog. This article may not be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of bradley.project. Contact Juliette Bradley at [email protected] for additional information. The photographer for this project was Andrew Rugge with Arch Photo, Inc.

Design Team:                    McClaren Engineering Group
Architect:                             Garrison Architects
Structural Engineer:         Anastos Engineering Associates
MEP Engineer:                  Plus Group Consulting Engineering, PLLC
Distributor:                         American Direct


Prefab(ulous) Beach Facilities Post – Sandy

     After Superstorm Sandy devastated so much of New York City on October 29, 2012, “a day at the beach” took on a whole new meaning. Post-storm, the hundreds of miles of New York City’s shoreline remained, included the 14 miles of beaches managed by the City. But many of the facilities at the beaches, including rest rooms, offices and lifeguard stations, were gone. The storm literally washed them away.

     Summer holidays and New York beaches go hand in hand. Pre-storm, millions of people flocked to the City’s beaches – Coney Island, Rockaway, Orchard Beach, South Beach, Midland Beach, Cedar Grove, Wolfe’s Pond Park and Manhattan Beach – between Memorial Day and Labor Day for fun in the sun, beach volleyball, boardwalks and amusement rides, entertainment and great food. But a storm like Sandy could change everything and almost did.

     These beaches are iconic, as are the restaurants, concession stands and shops that keep these places hopping night and day. That’s why the determination to rebuild has been incredible. Business owners learned that although the storm was quick and shocking, the rebuild process could be slow.


     While everyone focused on rebuilding the businesses along the beach front, no one could forget what drew the crowds and tourists in the first place…the beach itself. Just as vendors sought out the most effective way to rebuild their businesses, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR), which manages the beaches, had many issues to consider post-storm but the most important issue was this: beaches were going to be open, as they are every year, on Memorial Day weekend. DPR partnered with its colleagues at the New York City Department of Design and Construction and formed a very impressive plan of attack.

     The 14 miles of New York City’s beaches required a clean-up and repair effort of approximately $270 million. The work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on-going to restore several million cubic yards of sand to the beach, in addition to building berms. Volunteers and work crews continue to groom the seashore and intensive public relations efforts are being made to encourage tourism to the New York beaches.

     Based on the history of Mother Nature and the storms she has provided in the last few years, it is safe to say that a storm like Sandy is going to happen again, at some point, and the City of New York wants to be, that is will be, prepared.

     That’s why New York City officials put a plan in place to build the kind of beach facilities that can withstand a storm like Sandy. In December 2012, those same officials contracted with McClaren Engineering Group, who subcontracted with Garrison Architects to see if Jim Garrison could design and build lifeguard stations and other beach structures to replace the ones Sandy wiped out. The answer was yes, but the challenge was the production schedule. New York had committed to having its beaches back and operating by Memorial Day 2013, just five short months from when Garrison came on board. Typically in a city like New York, building approvals alone could take five months. This would be a challenge like no other for all involved.

     Garrison spent 40 days and emerged with designs for flood-resistant, modular structures along the beaches of Coney Island, Staten Island, and Rockaway Beach. The designs for lifeguard stations, comfort stations and offices included features to make them flood-resistant and sustainable. They are elevated above the new FEMA storm surge numbers, mounted on concrete piles and accessed by ramps and landings made of galvanized steel gangplanks. The structures use photovoltaics for renewable energy production cross-ventilation keeps them naturally cool while skylights illuminate their interiors. Carefully positioned windows provide views of the Atlantic Ocean.

     The Design Team to construct the beach facilities included the City of New York, McClaren Engineering Group, Garrison Architects, Deluxe Building Systems and Triton Structural. When this multi-faceted team began analyzing the best products to use to incorporate into such unusual structures, they reached out to American Direct. Vice President of Sales Eastern Region, John DelCollo, says as a Door Frame and Hardware professional, he had never seen anything like these structures, but he was eager to begin work on product recommendation to ensure the door openings and hardware would be the perfect match for such a heavy duty structure.

     The construction schedule was a challenge as there were 37 buildings and 12 different designs of those buildings depending on whether it was a comfort station (rest room), lifeguard station, or maintenance office. To get these structures up and running by the requested holiday weekend, American Direct was going to have to do double duty. DelCollo was charged with provided temporary openings for the holiday weekend, then later, deliver what would be the permanent openings. DelCollo’s efforts focused on selecting the perfect doors and frames that could be installed and bolted, then unbolted and permanent doors and frames installed without disrupting all the other wall construction around those doors and frames.

     The temporary doors were cold rolled steel, but the permanent doors were constructed of 316 grade (pharmaceutical grade) stainless steel, which has high resistance to corrosion. DelCollo utilized American Direct’s expansive network of vendors and reached out to his contacts at CECO Door (hollow metal manufacturer) and Hager Hardware Company. These companies were able to provide the special expediting needed to accommodate the schedule.

     In order to meet the aggressive deadline, DelCollo had to engage three different stainless steel factories at the same time. “Based on several discussions with the manufacturing industry, I wasn’t sure there would be enough 316 stainless steel in the marketplace at the time. Working with CECO and their partner companies, multiple stainless steel factories were employed that could generate what we needed. Coordinating the stainless steel doors shipping from three different locations was critical to our success,” says DelCollo.

     Temporary cold rolled steel doors and the permanent stainless steel doors were shipped to the Deluxe Building Systems factory in Berwick, PA where the modular units were built. John Erb, Vice President Sales, says the components used on the structures were heavier than used in high rise buildings. “Because of the weight, these were not friendly modules for an assembly line process and required that we run a 24/7 production line.” Once complete, the modules were trucked to a pier in Port Newark and then moved to each borough by barge and craned onto flatbeds for delivery to the beaches. The largest units measure 15 feet by 47 or 57 feet long. The units weigh up to 50 tons. The moving process required three weeks of multi-state trips at speeds as low as 5 miles per hour.

     The benefit of having the buildings constructed off site allowed the construction crew to set the foundation piles and lead the services to the site. Working tasks simultaneously like this was the only way the tight schedule would be met.

     As unusual as these structures are, according to Garrison, they are setting a premier example of incorporating sustainable design solutions into modular building practices. Garrison has been designing buildings in New York for more than 30 years and was very impressed with the way the city moved aside as much red tape as possible to allow this project to develop. “I’ve never seen anything like it on the city’s part,” says Garrison.


These modular structures will no doubt rate right up there as one of the rarest projects American Direct has ever worked on. DelCollo says this was indeed a unique project to be part of. What is not unique, however, is the synergy that emerged from Deluxe Building Systems, American Direct, Garrison Architects, Triton Structural and the City of New York that put the needs of New Yorkers and surrounding areas first. A shock like Superstorm Sandy makes people face a “new normal,” and although life is now different on the beaches of New York, it has returned to be familiar and welcoming. American Direct is honored to have participated in the renewal of such a special place.

Hager Companies is privileged to have been a team member for this project. We appreciate being able to share this article about these unique structures.