Marriott’s Modular Moment Chain will build the world’s tallest modular—as in pre-fabricated—hotel in New York

Ready for something completely different? Marriott is pretty sure business travelers are, and announced in late April that it will build—or stack—the world’s tallest modular hotel in Manhattan when it debuts its AC Hotel New York NoMad, a 26-story, $65 million modular property.  

The 360-foot, 168-room hotel is on track to be “stacked”—it only takes about three months—at Sixth Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan in late fall with prefabricated and pre-furnished guestrooms. It’ll be topped with a modular roof and modular rooftop bar and is expected to be open for business in late 2020.

But is pre-fab going to be, well … fab? That’s the bet Marriott is making as the chain’s tower plan marks a turning point for industry confidence in prefabricated properties, according Eric Jacobs, Marriott International, Chief Development Officer, North America, Select and Extended Stay Brands.

“In North America, the construction process hasn’t changed significantly in 150 years and it’s ripe for innovation,” Jacobs says. “The world’s tallest modular hotel in one of the world’s greatest destinations will act as a game-changing symbol to ignite even greater interest in modular among the real estate and lending industries.”

So how’s all this work? Fair question; here goes: Marriott says prefabricated guestrooms will arrive at the hotel site fully constructed, inside and out and stacked. Besides finished, painted walls, each “module” will contain a fully outfitted guest room—complete with beds, sheets, pillows, flooring and even toiletries. The hotel’s roof and rooftop bar are expected to be produced using modular construction, but its more customized public areas, such as the restaurant and lobby, will be constructed using traditional construction methods.

Prefabrication is a process that Marriott has found typically reduces the construction timeline, curbs site waste and noise, and results in a higher-quality product produced with factory level precision, Jacobs says.  The time-savings comes from the ability to perform two crucial functions simultaneously—building the public spaces on site while manufacturing the guest rooms offsite.

Marriott, which has the largest pipeline of hotels in North America, began researching modular construction in 2014 to offset lengthening hotel construction times—a trend attributed to the nation’s building boom and resulting labor shortages, Jacobs says. Since 2011, Marriott has seen the average time to build and open a hotel in North America increase by as much as 50 percent.

Since about 2015, Marriott has been banging the modular drum by educating owners, franchisees, architects, lenders, consultants, general contractors and other stakeholders across the industry about its benefits.

Since the launch of the initiative, the company’s development partners in North America have opened 31 Marriott-brand hotels—all low-rise structures—that incorporate prefabricated guestrooms and bathrooms.