The latest news on New York architecture.

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What is Underpinning?

Underpinning is a process used to repair, strengthen, or increase the depth of an existing foundation by lowering the footing to allow it to rest on more supportive soil.

While oftentimes underpinning is associated with the remediation of deficient or failing foundations, it is also used in cases where the use of a building has changed, floors are being added to upper stories, or additional depth is desired in subsurface spaces, such as basements or cellars. In dense urban locations, such as New York City, underpinning is also a common practice during the construction of adjoining, adjacent, or nearby structures that require the removal or excavation of the soil supporting the neighboring properties.

The process of underpinning begins by removing or excavating the soil from beneath an existing foundation.

To avoid the risk of undermining the foundation, which may lead to structural failure, the removal of the soil is performed controlled stages, called ‘pins’, of limited length. The depth of the excavation is determined by a geotechnical engineer, who assesses the soil composition to identify the strata that is suitable to bear the weight of the building. The excavated soil is replaced with new material, typically concrete, which forms a new foundation beneath the existing one. Once one of the ‘pins’ is complete, and the concrete is cured, the process is repeated on the next section of the foundation until the entire length of the wall is reinforced.

There are multiple methods of underpinning including:

  • Mass Pour
  • Beam and Base
  • and Mini-Piled

The mass pour method is the most common due to its low cost and ability to resist heavy foundation loads. In this method, a solid, continuous concrete foundation is poured beneath the existing foundation is sections. While this method uses a great deal of material, it is the simplest method to engineer, does not require heavy machinery, and can allow for continuity of use during construction.

A more technically advanced method is the beam and base method, where a reinforced concrete beam is constructed below the entire foundation to replace the existing footing. In this method, the new beam transfers the load to a mass concrete base which spreads the load evenly across the soil. While more advanced in its design, the feasibility of this methods largely depends on the structural configuration of the building above the foundation.

Where ground conditions are variable or access around the area of the foundation is limited, the mini-piled method of underpinning may be used. In this method, ‘piles’ or deep vertical structural elements are driven into the ground in drilled holes deep enough to allow the piles to rest on stable soil. The piles typically extend at least 15’ below ground, but depending on the soil condition, are capable to depths of over 50’. While this method can overcome even the most adverse soil conditions, the engineering is more involved, and the process can prove to be quite expensive due to the technical expertise and specialty equipment required.

If you are planning on performing structural work on your existing property – either elective or as part of a remediation program – it is important to hire a firm with extensive experience working closely with structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, and the NYC Department of Buildings to mitigate the risk of negatively impacting your property and those adjacent to you.

If you have any questions about performing work on your existing building, do not hesitate to contact us.

Published in Sustainability

Scott Henson Architect LLC is an award-winning architecture firm with a diverse portfolio of work in and around New York City, and has developed a specialty in the repair, preservation, and restoration of buildings.

We are creative problem solvers dedicated to a hands-on approach that brings a passion for craftsmanship into all phases of our projects. We assist our clients in diagnosing and remedying the myriad of issues that can plague new and historic buildings alike. Through traditional construction methods and new construction technologies, we find solutions to immediate and long-term concerns of building maintenance and preservation. We work closely with our clients to investigate building conditions and to develop strategic, economically responsible recommendations for the repair of their buildings, and then implement the design and construction in an open, transparent line of communication.

Our approach to architecture is sensitive to the history of existing structures while pragmatic about their present needs to ensure that these buildings remain active contributors to our urban fabric. We approach each project, large or small, with the same level of care. Beginning with a careful investigation of the conditions unique to each project, we integrate our client’s budgetary, programmatic and aesthetic goals to design the optimal solution for each of our projects. Stone, brick and mortar, terra-cotta, wood, cast-iron, steel, sheet metal, waterproofing and roofing systems, windows, and vaults are few of the components we have in-depth knowledge and experience in specifying, detailing, and fabricating.

We view the re-purposing, rehabilitation, and restoration of existing buildings as one of the most effective tools for the sustainable stewardship of our environmental resources, including those resources that have already been expended in their construction.

We have extensive experience in the assessment, design and detailing of building exteriors including preparation of comprehensive conditions reports, construction documents and repair specifications, full and phased construction cost estimates, city agency filing, and contract procurement and administration.
Our firm is primarily functional in Manhattan, which has a healthy combination of architectural landmarks and new buildings that make up its skyline. We also have several projects in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

All things considered, this full-service architecture firm is an exceptional choice for your next building project.

Contact us here to get started.

Published in Restoration
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An Overview of Construction Management

Construction management encompasses all aspects of a construction project, from bid through completion, including:

  • Staffing
  • Construction
  • Oversight
  • Documentation
  • Permits
  • Quality control/quality assurance
  • Drawing preparation

Based on a client’s desired level of control, a skilled construction manager is responsible for, first and foremost, acting as the owner’s representative throughout the course of the project and providing cohesion from bid through delivery. Additional duties include preparing drawings to technical specifications and coordinating and overseeing scope, special conditions, documentation, and pricing considerations. The manager also examines contractor and material supplier pre-qualifications and ensures that projects meet all specifications and requirements.

There are two broad phases involved in construction management in which construction managers involve themselves: pre-construction and construction/delivery.

Pre-Construction Phase

During the planning, design, and pre-construction phase, the manager works with the client and architect in order to define the project’s scope, budget, and other preparatory factors such as energy efficiency, design, structural integrity, market value, space used, and mechanical and electrical systems before construction begins. The manager also ensures that materials adhere to specifications and fall within the desired budget.

Construction/Delivery Phase

As would be expected, this phase addresses the actual construction based upon the specifications, plans, and budgets discussed in the previous phase. The construction manager coordinates and oversees:

  • On-site construction supervision and coordination
  • Scheduling
  • Cost accounting and other financial records

With respect to cost control records, the construction manager is responsible for:

  • Evaluating actual versus proposed costs
  • Adhering to the budget
  • Developing and maintaining the construction schedule
  • Monitoring construction progress
  • Arranging inspections
  • Dealing with any change orders by the owner
  • Coordinating product delivery, storage, and security
  • Obtaining the necessary equipment
  • Assisting the owner with occupancy, systems operations, and any other post-construction concerns.

Quality Control

During and following the project’s completion, quality assurance and control is critical to ensure that the finished product meets the original requirements, specifications, and subsequent performance expectations. Construction managers make sure that the project not only falls within the proposed budget but that the finished project is structurally sound and adheres to all specifications and codes.

For more information about the construction management services we provide, please contact us.

 

Published in Miscellaneous

The world we live in is obsessed with vintage meeting modern. A common hobby is often restoring antique items, and making them seemingly brand new. Few often ponder the work that goes into doing this, and sometimes chalk restoration up to simply being a new coat of paint. There is a whole process that goes into the preservation and restoration of historical buildings, however, and it is quite interesting. 

Construction cannot simply be delved into, but instead, must be planned out first. This leads into the debate on linear versus phased construction. Essentially, which is the best for this project? Well, the answer is typically both when dealing the restoration of a historical building.

Figuratively so, linear construction is traditional. This undergoes meticulous planning, and all of the bases get covered. It is a slower process, but it is important to remember that the original plans for a historical building were, in fact, slower, as well. Linear construction basically leaves little to no room for error, as everything is thoughtfully planned out. Of course, linear construction covers the vintage side of things quite nicely.

Phased construction, on the other hand, is very fast-paced. The construction of a building has already started when the final phases are still being planned out. Basically, it is the execution of an idea, without the idea being completely finished. It is seemingly more risky, but is the most popular method in the construction world today. As you can tell, it is the modern aspect of the restoration of historical buildings.

With all of this in mind, the argument of linear versus phased construction still stands. It is safe to say that, though, that choosing an expert on both types of construction, is essential. With over 25 years of experience, Scott Henson is the architectural expert you are looking for.

Published in Miscellaneous

If you have experienced leaks, mold, or excess dust in your building, you may need building envelope repair.  

The building envelope is what protects the interior space from the elements and includes the building's roof, walls, windows, doors, and foundation. This outer shell protects a building's interior from water damage and outside air.

Water leaking through a building envelope can cause expensive and dangerous damage. For instance, if water leaks through the roof or gets trapped in a wall, the standing water can rot the building's support beams and endanger their structural integrity. Wood rot can allow mold to grow, which in turn can aggravate allergies and smell bad.

When air flow from outside is not controlled by the building envelope, the result is higher heating and cooling costs, as well as potential damage from dust and dirt. Variations in interior temperature can exacerbate water damage as well. For example, if the building's air conditioning system isn't able to keep the air cool and dry, mold may grow more quickly.

Signs that you may need building envelope repair:

  • Leaks
  • Water stains or damage
  • Groaning, spongy floors
  • Moldy or musty odor
  • Peeling wallpaper or paint

The longer you ignore the signs, the more you will pay for repairs.

We specialize in restoration and repair of New York City building envelopes. Because this work is most often completed while a building is occupied and open for business, it's important to work with a contractor that is sensitive to your needs. We work with building owners to complete these important repairs without disrupting day-to-day operations, either during off-hours or on an accelerated schedule.

Contact us to schedule a consultation.

Published in Landmarks Preservation

Today marks three years since hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast. In those three years, the community has banded together to rebuild. This courageous effort and relentless force is what has restored the shore.
During Sandy, a ‘Major Retailer’ store that had been built atop concrete piers along the shoreline of Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn was severely damaged by the surge of water that flooded the city. The storm was devastating. The concrete slab floors of the store rippled with the waves and were shattered and displaced, with water geysering up through the slab into the store! The damage rendered the retail building un-usable.

Following the storm, the ‘Major Retailer’s management contacted Scott Henson Architect’s trusted team to spearhead the effort of installing a temporary tent in the store’s parking lot. This tent would serve as a sales floor until the brick and mortar store could be repaired. The re-establishment of a sales floor was critical at this time because this ‘Major Retailer’ served as a primary source of goods that were vital to the neighborhood. The goal? To be open and functional by 11/23 (‘Black Friday’).

While Lower Manhattan through Midtown remained without electricity and the SHA office closed, Scott Henson walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to meet with the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, Ira Gluckman, to discuss the necessity of the tent and map out a course of action through the city agency approval process. He was on a mission to get the tent approved in time for the Black Friday deadline.

During the following two weeks, SHA worked with the project team, including the Owner’s tent manufacturer from Europe and in-house consultant team, SHA’s structural engineering consultant, Gilsanz Murray Steficek, and expeditor Marty Marcus from Property Intervention Consultants to ensure the tent was filed, approved and installed by the Thanksgiving deadline. Scott Henson met personally with the Borough Commissioner on multiple occasions and filed with the NYC Dept. of Buildings, Dept. of Transportation, and the Fire Dept. of New York.

The SHA team worked in coordination with the project team to adapt the tent manufacturer’s European standards to NYC standards, determine proper structural anchoring, interior sales layouts, mechanical heating/cooling layouts, fire protections/evacuation layouts and delivery/stock logistics.

All the hard work and long days paid off. The tent was approved, installed and stocked by the Monday prior to Thanksgiving, providing time for logistics to be ironed-out by Black Friday. Dedication to the cause always wins.

Published in Miscellaneous

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