Change FAR the worse

There’s a house under construction on Lockwood Road in Riverside that neatly illustrates the Floor Area Requirement’s affect on building design. A builder is not required to build a shallow hip roof, for instance, but when FAR penalizes both the use and height of attics, it encourages their elimination, especially on small lots where living space is at a premium. So this is what we get, and are going to get: mushrooms on steroids. Our local board has yet to assign a name to this style and still limits listing agents to “ranch”, “colonial” or, the best, nondescript term of all, “Euro-Style”. I nominate the term, “Bloomer”, in honor of Franklin Bloomer, the RTM Representative who has been such an advocate for FAR. So here are two Bloomers, one on Lockwood and the other around the corner on Lockwood Lane.











Double Ugh
Double Ugh



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13 Responses to Change FAR the worse

  1. Stanwich

    Not sure I get it. So what if the FAR rules make you create a stub attic. A full height attic would only serve to make the house taller, thereby putting more house on the lot. At what point do you stop? So these two house have oddly pitched roofs, that’s not the biggest sin in house design.

    There are other issues with FAR and our land use laws that are senseless I agree, but this doesn’t speak that loudly to me.

    • christopherfountain

      Stan, you have to understand that FAR was enacted on the theory that it would protect the “streetscape” – we already have height requirements, but what Franklin has done is expand his concern to what goes on inside a house.Thus, you can pitch a roof over a garage, but you must fill that space with timbers making it impossible to use. The view from the street is identical, but noting in that space can be used. Similarly, you can have an attic, but under FAR you must design your roof so that it is dependent upon braces that fill the attice space to hold it up and must supply an engineer’s certificate stating that, if the braces are removed, the roof will fall. Makes no sense to me.

  2. ,,,,,....

    Awesome. The “Bloomer” is the funniest real estate joke I’ve heard in a while. His name will go down in infamy…as it should.

  3. Anonymous

    Can you give the uneducated masses a briefing on the history of FAR, what the basic outline of the rules are, and whether there is any movement afoot to change or eliminate it?

  4. There are far (that’s a pun) more insidious design issues, linked to grade plane. The overall height is measured from grade plane (who can understand and measure that concept – only a land surveyor) to roof ridge. And if grade plane to main floor exceeds three feet, you just got a first story down in the basement.

    So your nice zoning compliant 2.5 story house just became three stories. Except your attic is now counted as your fourth floor. So you’ve got countable FAR on all four levels.

    Have fun getting your next building permit!

    In the meantime, your nice porches and nice colonial height off the ground are gone. Mushrooms is a good description of what the new houses will look like.

    If your porch has an alcove area with walls on three sides, well, guess what, that now counts as indoor space too.

  5. Helsa Poppin

    I second Anonymous. Sometimes I see a house and I think “Nice, but . . . ” and I start wondering if I can put in a study over the attached garage or if I extend the house to expand the kitchen, can I add both a bedroom and an attic playroom over the extension, or will I be limited to two floors? When, if ever does basement space count?

    Is the answer to all of these questions, you can do whatever you want as long as you have enough land?

  6. Stranger

    What is so wrong with attics?

  7. Cos Cobber

    I think we should have an above grade volume limit. That would make far more sense.

  8. We do have an above grade volume limit.

    150,000 cu. ft.

    The problem with grade plane/height relationships is the regs only consider land within 10 feet of the interior spaces (even if it’s under decks and porches.)

    Therefore, the grade relationship to the street or the neighbors is ignored. View St in Byram is an example, where houses built on high rock outcrops tower over the “streetscape,” which is ignored by the regulations.

    Many communities find a way to factor in the curb elevation. Rye, for one, puts more emphasis on the front facade. In Greenwich, all perimeter 10 ft out counts the same.

    But as Helsa noted, with enough land and setbacks, you can design a grade plane solution, to solve an FAR or Story-count problem. Our former Zoning Enforcement staff was helpful in showing you exactly how to design a moat around the house. I swear I have seen fill over the 1st floor window sills, just to make a builder’s finished house comply with regs.

  9. Accolay

    The bigger offenses for the second home, I think, are the siding, the cheap blinds, and the equally as cheap landscaping.

  10. Riverside Dog Walker

    The first house takes up its entire lot (it seems; haven’t seen the back) and is surrounded by trees. It will be so dark, particularly in the back of the house, that FAR or no FAR, it would be pretty depressing.

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