Much of Atterbury’s early work consisted of weekend houses for wealthy industrialists. Atterbury was given the commission for the model housing community of Forest Hills Gardens which began in 1909 under the sponsorship of the Russell Sage Foundation.
For Forest Hills, Atterbury developed an innovative construction method: each house was built from approximately 170 standardized precast concrete panels, fabricated off-site and assembled by crane. The system was sophisticated even by modern standards: panels were cast with integral hollow insulation chambers; casting formwork incorporated an internal sleeve, allowing molds to be "broken" before concrete had completely set; and panels were moved to the site in only two operations (formwork to truck and truck to crane).
Atterbury's system influenced the work of mid-1920s European modern architects like Ernst May, who used panelized prefab concrete systems in a number of celebrated experimental housing projects in Frankfurt. In this way Atterbury can be considered a progenitor of the Modern Movement.
Atterbury was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1918 as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1940.