Floor Area Ratio NYC

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Zoning Calculations

(Last Updated On: December 6, 2018)

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is mathematical formula that determines how many square feet can be developed on a property in proportion to the lot area. The property area is multiplied by the FAR factor and the result is the maximum floor area allowed for a building on the lot. Local Zoning Codes will assign a designated FAR based on the zoning district and building use.


Floor Area Ratio, FAR

Understanding the basics of FAR will allow you to see how large or how small of a building you can put on a property, or if there is any room for expansion of a current building on a lot. The FAR calculation can also determine if there are available air rights for sale on the property. This article will be based on New York City Zoning but the concepts can apply beyond NYC to areas that use FAR as a metric for development regulations.


Zoning Basics Floor Area Ratio

Our Zoning Analysis always start by figuring out the maximum buildable area for your lot. This is the amount of square footage you are allowed to build on the property. The floor area ratio is the deciding factor in finding out the maximum building floor area. The floor area ratios are set forth by NYC City Planning in the Zoning Resolution (Zoning Code). FAR is the reason why buildings on the same size lot but in different zoning districts are drastically different sizes.


Checking You Zoning for Floor Area Ratio NYC

Zola, the NYC Zoning and Land Use website is a great resource for finding what zoning district a property is in. After typing in your address, the additional information estimates the zoning district based on the location. All information on this site should be verified by checking Zoning Maps and getting land surveys, but it can give you a close reference.



The local zoning codes will identify what the FAR or Floor Area Ratio is for your zoning district. Depending on the district, specific property conditions, and proposed building use. In different cases these may be easier or more complicated to figure out. For example a mixed use building may have a different FAR for each use.



For properties in NYC, on the NYC City Planning website you can find generic information for each district. These come from the Zoning Handbook, at our architecture firm we call the zoning cheat sheets. They do not provide the full answer to zoning. Zoning is complicated the zoning code in NYC is thousands of pages. Under the Zoning tab there is a Districts & Tools section where you can click on your district and you can get a glimpse of what the basic zoning regulations are.



FAR Calculation NYC Example

Once you have established your FAR and the area of your lot you can find the maximum buildable area.

How To Calculate FAR


Below you will see an example of a property we investigated for one of our clients. This is in an R7A zoning district in the Bronx. The R stands for Residential Zoning. Zoning districts ending with a letter in NYC are Contextual Zoning Districts. Residential buildings in contextual zones must comply with the Quality Housing Program Zoning regulations.


FAR Calculation Example

Lot Width = 30 Feet

Lot Length = 100 Feet

Lot Area = 30’ x 100’ = 3,000 Square Feet

Zoning District = R7A

R7A FAR = 4.0

FAR x Lot Area = Maximum Buildable Area

4.0 x 3,000 SF = 12,000 SF

This property can be developed with a 12,000 square foot building. This is called the Zoning Floor Area.



Once you have you maximum building area. You can now get an idea of how large of a project you can put onto a lot. You can also subtract the size of the current building on a lot to see how much of an expansion is allowed.


Floor Area Ratio Zoning Calculations

Zoning is complicated we recommend speaking with a professional . The floor area ratio is just one of many issues that will affect a new building development or building addition. FAR in Architecture is a common zoning issue that any architect should be familiar with.



We hope this post was helpful and we wish you the best of luck with your project. Please feel free to leave comments or questions below. If you are interested in speaking with an architect you can contact Fontan Architecture directly and we will be happy to hear about your upcoming project.


New York Architects, Jorge Fontan

Author Jorge Fontan AIA

This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.


  • JH

    December 17, 2018 8:20 pm

    What does a negative FAR indicate? for example, on a property listing, I see “FAR -2750.” The broker indicates the info is from some public site, and he otherwise has no idea what it means. Property owner maintains the prop is not overbuilt.

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