New construction or alteration?

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Topic: New construction or alteration?

Construction January 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm

New construction or alteration?

I have a circa 1910 Federal-style townhouse with an empty adjacent lot (zoned R6B) where I’d like to build a similarly-sized structure.  Are there any significant advantages to either going with plans for a new construction or an alteration of the existing structure to extend over the adjacent property?
Also, if anyone has any positive experience with an architect who might be able to take on such a project, I’d like to hear about it.

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If you can do it as an Alt 1 with two buildings on one zoning lot it’s a no brainer (or an addition to your existing structure, if they allow it. Research the new definition of “building” as per the 2011 zoning text and you’ll see things have changed a bit for these types of filings- lots of references to fire walls, party walls, etc that define “buildings” ). We used to be able to file these things as additons, but might be difficult with DOB these days. I’ve done one six story addition to an existing 1 story warehouse, and one four story addition to an existing 1 story garage. We are currently underttaking a new building where we tore down the existing structure in lieu of an ALt 1. The new building (NB) has taken 8 months to get approved and has been such a nightmare in terms of required DOB filings, fees, etc. that i highly wish we kept enough of the existing structure to call it an alt 1 instead of NB. There are usually property tax savings for filingg an Alt 1 instead of NB as well. We happen to be Architects at the firm but do not take clients….we just develop our own projects. If your project is in Brooklyn, I have nothing but great things to say about Scott Schnall but we use him for expediting, not design….if anyone can squeeze this throgh as an alteration I would say it’s him…..

We are currently working on 2 of these projects, one in Boerum Hill and one in Gowanus. Existing structure on one lot and an empty adjacent lot. In both cases we joined the lots and are building a new building. However, there may be significant advantages to an Alteration as “yte” suggests. A lot will depend on the extent of the renovation of the existing as well as if the lots are merged? Give us a call to discuss in detail. 917.261.6566 – Mark 

It is certainly easier to do an addition (alt-1) versus a new building application. You may not have a choice depending on your scope- and how much of th existing building remains as a percentage of the new entire building.  The filing could take a while either way- even if you use Scott Schnall as we often do.  The trade of is that, while the NB application involves a lot more paperwork (sewers connections, paving plans to name a few) it may ultimately be easier for the plan examiner to understand, and may get approved sooner… MAYBE.  A complicated alt-1 can drag on and on because the examiner may not be able to grasp a complex project (as an expansion like this probably is) in the series of short meetings you get to present your case. In short, the issue is complex and the specifics of your site and project affect how you will approach the filing. Would be happy to discuss. 212-217-1535

We have two new buildings going up and have done enough sizeable additions to say that in our experience, the difference between the two is almost negligible.  If you cover more than 1000 sq ft of a lot, you’ll have to do Storm Drainage filing (SD 1 & 2), a Builder’s Paving Plan and sprinklers.
One other thing to keep in mind is that you’d need to make sure the existing building is up to code as you’ll probably be getting a new C of O on it as well.  You might have to install sprinklers on the existing building, or add other code related items.  
Not to mention what happens when you’re done.  Will it be easier to sell a completely seperate building than it is to sell one that has ties to its neighbor?
I would keep things simple and consider them two separate buildings on two separate lots.

I would agree with Jim Hill above.  Two separate buildings will make things less complicated with the DOB.  As you consider making this new building, think about making it a low energy usage building such as a Passive House.  When starting with a new building, you have a great opportunity to have almost zero additional costs to make the building 90% more energy efficient than standard construction using the Passive House Standard.  It will also be heathier and more comfortable than standard homes.
Jeremy Shannon, Prospect Architecture

One question that was not asked yet:  Is this located within an Historic District?  If so, I would definitely try to keep them separate buildings.

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