The latest news on New York architecture.

  • A Guide to Working on Landmarked Buildings

    A Guide to Working on Landmarked Buildings

    New York City is home to over 36,000 landmarked properties-most of which are located in 141 historic districts and extensions - 1,398 individual landmarks, and 119 interior landmarks. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the largest preservation agency in the nation, is entrusted with safeguarding the city’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history.

    Any work proposed work on a landmarked building must be held up to strict LPC standards and regulations- that means any restoration, alteration, reconstruction, demolition or new construction that effects a landmark requires a permit.

    The type of permit required depends entirely on the type of work involved in the project. Permits can either be issued by a staff Preservationist or the full Commission depending on whether or not the scope of work meets the rules of the Commission. There are three types of permits:

    Certificate of No Effect:

    Also known as a CNE, a Certificate of No Effect is required for the following work:

    • Interior renovations that require Department of Buildings permits

    • Installation of plumbing and heating equipment

    • Installation of an exhaust fan vent

    • Changes that the staff determines do not adversely affect significant features of the building

    A CNE can be approved at staff level and does not require a public hearing with the full Commission.

    Permit for Minor Work

    Also known as a PMW, a Permit for Minor Work is required when the scope of work affects significant architectural features. This type of work includes:

    • Window/ door replacement

    • Masonry cleaning or repair

    • Restoration of architectural details


    A PMW can be approved at staff level and does not require a public hearing with the full Commission.


    Certificate of Appropriateness

    Over 90% of all applications to the LPC fall within the first two permit categories, however the remaining 10% are reviewed by the full Commission and the project’s local community board. Also known as a C of A, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required if the scope of work affects the significant landmarked features or does not conform to the Rules of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. This includes:

    • Additions

    • Demolitions

    • New construction

    • Removal of significant architectural features

    Filing a permit with the Landmarks Preservation Commission requires that an Architect create signed/sealed drawings and prepare a package of descriptive materials to aid the Commission’s evaluation of the impact of the proposed scope of work. These materials include a permit application, color photographs of the current building, historic photographs, close-up photos of where the work will occur, documentation of features to be restored, detail drawings, elevation and section drawings, written specifications and color/material samples.

    Whether you plan to do minor repairs or a full building addition, when approaching a project with landmark status it is important to hire a firm with extensive experience with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. If you have any questions about performing work on your landmarked property, do not hesitate to contact us.

  • The Case for Contract Procurement Services

    The Case for Contract Procurement Services

    When choosing a contractor for a building project, it seems so simple to choose the company with the lowest estimate and get to work. However, the contractor with the lowest price tag may not be the most qualified for the job. When choosing between contractors seems daunting, hiring an Architect to perform Contract Procurement Services may be the best course of action.

    A “qualified contractor” can only be defined in the context of the job to be performed. For example, a simple exterior renovation may only require a contractor who can cut and repoint masonry and replace facebrick with typical brick, however, the skillset required would increase drastically if it were an exterior restoration of a landmarked building which required mortar matching, historic sensitivity and coordination with the Landmarks Preservation Committee. Reaching out to an Architect who truly comprehends all of the factors governing a project can simplify process of choosing an appropriate contractor.

    Evaluating a contractor’s qualifications becomes easier when you have multiple points of comparison. Once hired for Contract Procurement Services, the Architect will reach out to trusted contractors and obtain three or more qualified bids. An initial walkthrough of the building and scope of work with all of the bidding contractors allows for more consistent bids. Before dismissing any proposals, the Architect will reach out to the Contractors and answer all relevant questions, to ensure that they are fully aware of the scope of work involved.

    When it comes to assessing bids, the estimated costs can be the fastest way to filter out sub-standard contractors. Contractors that fall into an average price range are probably looking at the job in a similar way and may offer comparable quality. However, a bid that falls way above or below the average could display signs of a gross miscalculation, which could mean disaster further down the road.

    Once the bids are initially narrowed down, contractor interviews help make a final decision easier. The Architect will help mediate interviews between the Client and the chosen bidders to assess whether their past work experience is applicable to the project’s scope of work. If the contractor’s experience and price seem like a good fit, the bid can be awarded and work can begin.

    As a full-service architectural firm, Scott Henson Architects is qualified to assist clients in choosing the best contractors for any kind of project. From facade repairs to interior renovations, we can help balance the quality and cost associated with a project. Contact us to learn how we can offer peace of mind in this important step of your valued job.