The problem with Zoning’s FAR

FAR, the floor area ratio, is determined by multiplying the area of a property by a number determined by the property’s zoning district.  For instance a 20’x100′ property in a zoning district of R5 has a factor of 1.25 allowing for 2500 square feet of ‘habitable’ interior space.

The issue is what is considered habitable. FAR accounts for the gross built area including thicknesses of walls, suggesting that the very walls that help define the interior spaces are habitable.  This results in something unfortunate, the attempt to make structural walls thinner resulting in larger interior spaces, which results in buildings that feel less sturdy by the increase in noise infiltration, vibration and other factors.

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Utility Study [part of ‘City for 50 million’ prototype]

This is a rather mundane study to illustrate one point, that by positioning utility lines in the optimum location, there is a significant savings of material, and thus of maintenance, resulting in cities that can better serve their residents needs.  But positioning of utilities, like telephone, cable, water, sewer, gas, steam and electrical is only part of the puzzle in developing a new urban prototype that will not only accommodate more people in better urban environments, but do so with less cost for maintenance into the future.

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Combining Two Properties or Condominiums in NYC

Property owners, builders, developers, architects, and engineers may request permission from both the Department of Finance and the Department of Buildings to divide (apportion) or merge (combine) lots. Approval depends on several factors including tax and zoning rules. The Department of Finance Tax Map Office is responsible for processing these requests.

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Maze Design

Part of a Resort Garden, we were asked to design a low hedge in the form of a maze, making it embody the spirit of the outdoors and embracing a family fun atmosphere.  With that, SimpleTwig Architecture proposed the following where animals, a bear, raccoon, seal, beaver and gofer all interact in a whimsical composition.

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The Functional Human, in Home Design

Homes are functional machines, although most people don’t consider this factor when designing a new home, or only as a side note.  Lets, for a moment, discuss the functional aspects of what humans have to deal with when functioning in a home solely from their point of view, and assume there is a fitting design to solve their daily and weekly tasks in order to save humans the maximum amount of time, thus providing extended opportunities to enjoy life.  This is a ‘house as machine’ examination!

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Existing Urban Block and its Inherent Shortcomings

Using New York City as an example, we can examine the typical urban residential block.  Part of a long and narrow grid it provides the basics for laying out residential and commercial districts and buildings. The American grid, with its ascending street numbers or letters, is an organizing approach meant to equalize, to account for expansion and to make navigation easy and efficient.

First we’ll look at a very early Sandborn Map surveyed as housing and other structures were filling in the blocks, analysis this in terms of road to lot ratio, housing disposition and it’s inherent pros/cons, and then explore a few property surveys to see some variations to the individual residential type in NYC.

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