Impact of height restrictions today
Zoning & Codes

Building Envelope Conundrum



In 2014, CHPC took a closer look at how the building envelope rules within contextual zoning can sometimes result in fewer residential units being built, following concerns from the affordable housing architects on our board. We examined seventeen sites to see how much the building envelope rules affected residential construction.

Our Building Envelope Conundrum study found that eight out of the seventeen buildings were unable to use all of their allotted floor areas because of the building envelope rules. In other words, it is often the building envelope that determines the development capacity of a new building rather than its floor area.

Watch a short video about CHPC's study back in 2014

The publication

‘Floor area’ has become a popular public policy currency in New York in recent years. For a city that ordinarily limits the amount of floor area that any new building can develop, bargaining with extra floor area can be a useful tool for the government; a seemingly costless and infinite resource, created literally out of thin air, to facilitate and encourage a wide range of goals for our new residential buildings.

And the New York City administration has many goals to fulfill in the coming years. Extra floor area to incentivize the production of affordable housing is widely discussed, but floor area incentives are also used to encourage green technologies in new buildings, and to develop sufficient communal spaces for resident services and well designed interior spaces. Any substantial increase in our overall housing stock will also require additional floor area to be made available for new residential development. But, in order for floor area to have any value as a public policy currency, it must be physically possible to build.

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