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The NYC Department of Buildings has issued guidelines for facade safety and the requirements for filing inspection reports. The department is responsible for issues of public safety where building facades and appurtenances can pose a risk to the public. The department mandates a five-year cycle of exterior inspections for building owners. 

Owners of buildings greater than six stories are required to hire a private qualified exterior wall inspector (QEWI) every five years, according to a rotating yearly scale based on building number. This private inspector verifies that no element of the facade has deteriorated or become unsafe, and has no risk of detaching, falling, and becoming dangerous to residents or the public on the streets below. Even strong materials such as brick, masonry, and tile can become degraded or damaged after exposure to pollutants and the weather, and some issues, such as water incursions into the facade, are not easily visible to the naked eye.

QEWI inspectors are required to submit either a Safe, Safe with Repair and Maintenance, or Unsafe report. If the report meets reporting requirements, it is accepted by the department and further action is scheduled. Any unsafe report has a scheduled DOB inspector visit the site and make recommendations for the building owner. When repairs are made, an amended report is filed, and another DOB inspector is scheduled.

In addition, a DOB inspector schedules an inspection visit when a facade report is not filed when due or a shed removal request is made. It is a common fine for building owners to not file the facade report on time for their building, and this oversight comes with significant monetary fines which are ongoing until the situation is corrected. There are also significant fines associated with unsafe facades which are not repaired and re-inspected as required.

Violations written by the Department of Buildings for facade safety violations are serious, but also suggest that the building owner is at risk for liability issues if a member of the public is injured when the owner is not in compliance with requirements. Knowing when the building is due for an inspection, filing reports in a timely manner, and meeting various requirements for facade safety is a complex process that is critical for building owners. 

Can we assist in a facade issue? Please contact us for more information, or to make an appointment.

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Benefits of Sustainable Architecture

Every day we hear about the negative implications of climate change as pollution levels continue to rise and our carbon footprint increases in size every year.

To combat this, you might consider taking the train to work instead of driving. If it's convenient, you may separate your paper and plastics in the recycling bin. You might even be persuaded to buy a fuel-efficient car. But it's time to think bigger and consider investing in sustainable architecture as a way to greatly reduce the negative effects of climate change.

Environmental Impacts

Many people are unaware of just how much buildings negatively impact the environment. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that buildings in the United States contributed to 38.9 percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions, including 20.8 percent from the residential sector and 18.0 percent from the commercial sector. 

Sustainable architecture focuses on building more efficiently by minimizing the footprint of the development site, using local and sustainable materials and incorporating more efficient mechanical systems, ultimately to minimize a building’s overall impact on the environment.

Shifts in Behavior

Sustainable architecture has the potential to change the way society views the environment. It is a well-known fact that architecture is able to shape our perspective and shift the cultural norm.

For example, a building owner can construct a traditional roof, but he or she might also want to consider a green roof with amenities for tenants. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but there are property resale benefits as well. Make the green option the attractive option.

At Scott Henson Architect, we take pride in architectural sustainability. With knowledge in design, preservation, construction and more, let us help you build with an environmentally conscious mindset. Please contact us today!

Federal and state tax credits, deductions, and property easements are designed to encourage property owners to embark on the challenging task of renovating a historic property, allowing it to function well in the modern world while keeping the character and design of the historic original. While there are differences between regions and states, basic rules apply for any historic renovation project that is hoping to qualify for tax credits or easements.

The property, whether an investment or owner-occupied, needs to be registered or listed as historic, or be located within a historic district. These are national designations as well as state, but state historic preservation offices manage the listings. Your state historic preservation office web site is the first stop for research.

Most of the tax credits and deductions are for renovation expenses, and there are usually upper and lower limits for renovation expenses. In many areas, materials and design need to conform to historic or neighborhood standards. For investment properties, there is also the need for planned access and adaptive use so the building can be accessed by multi-abled people.

A general rule of thumb is that investment properties can qualify for federal tax credits on renovation costs, while owner-occupied buildings can qualify for state credits and deductions. There is significant overlap, though. Both state and regional historic preservation offices may have a resource person who is responsible for changes in the laws and regulations, as well as grants and other funding opportunities.

Easements mean that the property owner signs away some property rights, in order to keep the property in a certain state. Many environmental easements are bringing agricultural or developed land back into wildlife corridors, for example. Property easements in historic districts or with historic properties means that the homeowner agrees in perpetuity to keep the nature and style of a property meeting historical standards. In some communities, these types of property easements can increase tax deductions and decrease both estate and property taxes.

Architects who work in historic preservation and adaptive reuse are going to be most familiar with the wide range of tax incentives, property easements, or other credit programs from the federal and state governments, and grant programs from community organizations.

Can we help you with an adaptive reuse or historic preservation project?

Please contact us for more information.

Construction can be complicated.

Each phase of construction requires specialized knowledge to ensure it runs smoothly, but hiring an expert for every phase of the construction process can become expensive and overwhelming. That's why an increasing number of property owners are turning to building owner representation services for their construction projects. 

An owner representative manages all aspects of design and construction on behalf of the property owner or developer. From hiring qualified contractors to managing the construction process, an owner representative will act as an advocate for the property owner throughout every phase of construction. Building owner representation helps property owners to eliminate risks and surprises, while ensuring that construction is completed on time and within their budget. 

Scott Henson Architect offers a full range of construction services, including building owner representation. Our construction services include:

  • Full and phased cost estimates
  • Qualified contractor selection assistance
  • Competitive bidding
  • Construction management
  • Owner representation
  • Site safety plan preparation
  • Demolition plan preparation

We have over fifteen years of experience with general contractors, craftsman, artisans, and preservation specialists. When you hire Scott Henson Architect for owner representation, you gain a full-service team of problem-solvers and professionals who will manage your construction project from conceptualization to completion so that you can focus on running your business. 

We use our experience with comparable projects and our knowledge of current market prices to provide you with accurate construction cost estimates, bid recommendations, and contract negotiations.

You'll never have to wonder what's going on with your construction project, because our firm always maintains an open line of communication. We provide you with detailed progress reports and project documentation throughout every step of the process.

We approach every project with the same level of care, dedication and enthusiasm. Whether your construction project is commercial or residential, Scott Henson Architecture can help you. 

Contact us today for more information about our construction and owner representation services. 

The Knickerbocker Telephone Company Building has been selected as a Finalist in the Architizer A+Awards for the Architecture +Preservation category.

As a Finalist, our work is amongst a handful in the world for that category, and is competing for the two most sought-after awards: The Architizer A+ Jury Award and the Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award.

Here is the best part! YOU, the public, chooses who wins the Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award. Public voting is open from July 10th to July 20th.

Vote for Scott Henson Architect Here

 Click Here to Vote for Scott Henson Architect!

 

All Finalists and Special Mentions can be viewed on the finalists page at awards.architizer.com/finalists.

The Jury Winners and Popular Choice Winners will be announced on July 30th. In the meantime, help us spread the word!

Performing upkeep on a building's exterior is important, and not merely for the sake of appearances. Buildings with facades that have not been maintained can be hazardous, which is why the city has enacted measures like FISP, formally known as Local Law 11.

What is It

FISP is a local law which requires the owners of any building more than six stories tall to have the exterior walls and appurtenances on that building inspected every five years. This measure was a replacement for Local Law 10, originally enacted in the late 1990’s, which required inspections of only the front side of buildings.

Why it's Necessary

Facade inspections only became mandatory after a Barnard College student was killed by a piece of terra cotta falling off a building in 1979. The original laws only targeted building exteriors that faced pedestrian walkways. It also did not require close-up inspection. A series of incidents in December 1997, including stone pieces falling off buildings and entire facades collapsing, pushed the city to repeal the original laws and set stricter building codes.

How it Works

Any building more than six stories tall - residential or commercial - must have its entire facade inspected once every five-year cycle. The cycles are broken down into sub-cycles, which are determined by the last digit of the building's block number. Each of these sub-cycles has a two-year window in which inspections must occur and reports filed.

Owners need to have inspections completed with a qualified exterior wall inspector (usually a registered architect or professional engineer) on site to supervise the inspection.

Reports must be filed within 60 days of the inspection, with a condition of Safe, Safe With a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP), or Unsafe. Unsafe conditions must be reported immediately, and repairs effected in 30 days. Buildings with SWARMP conditions must have repairs complete prior to their next inspection cycle.

Along with its many design and building maintenance services, Scott Henson Architect has provided FISP services for over one thousand buildings in NYC.

Contact us today for more information.

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Demolition Planning and Preparation


If you have plans to renovate one of your buildings, and possibly add an extension, demolition will likely be involved. The demolition and site preparation stages are important milestones in the construction process. These stages will also be some of the first real action you will see on the building's site.

Depending on how big or small the project will be, this stage can be completed in a few days. Although sometimes this stage can take longer and be a very intense process where multiple parties are working together to make sure your building and property are ready for the upcoming phases of construction.

Full demolition can be completed quickly in some cases, and in general this work is delegated to a contractor. Partial demolition might take a little longer in the case that your building will need to be torn down in preparation for the extension. You will need to have tradespeople on your side who have an understanding of what you plan to build next, so the process can be as efficient and smooth-running as possible.

You will likely also see other work being completed during this stage that is related to site preparation. This will typically depend on how your project is being progressed, and if any considerable work will be required before the foundation needs to be set. A good contractor is essential, as he or she will be on site every day to make sure the work is organized and sequenced correctly.

Are you planning a repair or restoration of a building? Contact us today.

The world of adaptive reuse and historic preservation has found ways to successfully adapt and use historic buildings in modern neighborhoods. Social needs, such as for artist's housing, and needs for adaptive access, so all citizens can use the old buildings, have been successfully met. The old armories, however, have a number of challenges that are unique to their nature as urban fortresses.

The armories were developed initially as the home fort for state militias, with room for storage of ammunition and weapons, room for drilling a company or more of soldiers, storage and living quarters, administrative offices, storage and management of provisions--all of the space needed to house, feed, and equip a fighting unit of soldiers. So the armories are huge, both large in interior space, many an entire block long, and built with the sturdiness of a building designed to protect armament. This massive scale, both in size and in the thickness and weight of the walls and other structural supports, is a challenge when adapting the spaces to other uses.

The armories have mostly been in the ownership of the state, and as they were no longer needed for active military service, the state has ceded ownership over to the city. The city, having responsibility to provide some social services for their people, used the large spaces to provide homeless shelters and other social service needs. The grand scale of the buildings make them useful for a large-scale operation of this type, but neighborhoods have had difficulty when these needed but challenging uses impacted the quality of life in the neighborhood. In addition, there is some thought that the buildings, being designed as they were, should be prepped and available for citizens to use in the event of natural disasters. This potential use, while needed, is very expensive to maintain as space.

Some armories are being studied to evaluate their feasibility to be adapted into mixed income housing. Like many of these projects, competing interests of neighborhood quality of life versus the need for affordable housing makes the conversation challenging.
It will not be easy or cheap to adapt these massive military forts into uses for the modern day, with access for all and the systems that in modern life we need, such as HVAC, fire suppression systems, modern water catchment, sewage and plumbing. But their architecture is unique, and their scale and grandeur cannot be duplicated in modern times. To retain their uniqueness, we need to find suitable connections and interests between competing parties, and meet the challenge of adaptive reuse with innovative thinking.

For more information on adaptive reuse and historic building preservation, please contact us.

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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.

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Riverside Church

Opening its doors in 1930, Riverside Church is an interdenominational church in Morningside Heights, situated within Columbia University’s campus.

Commissioned by John D. Rockefeller and designed by the firm of Allen, Pelton and Collens, the church’s nave is modeled after the 13th-Century Gothic Chartres Cathedral. Its bell tower goes far beyond the structural capabilities of traditional gothic cathedrals, as it is built on a steel frame the equivalent of a 22-story building, which makes Riverside Church the tallest church in the United States.

Scott Henson Architect became involved with Riverside Church in performing the visual inspection for the LL11 Cycle 8 façade safety report, which involved the use of industrial rope access to properly assess the conditions of the church’s bell tower and adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Building. The repair program is currently underway.

In the meantime, we are also working with the property manager in weather-stripping the doors, as well as making the observation tower accessible for public use so that visitors may enjoy the views Riverside Church has to offer.