Building A Townhouse In NYC

by | Last updated May 10, 2024 | New Building Design

We are currently in the process of building a new townhouse in Brooklyn. Below is a step by step account of the process. We will periodically be updating this blog post as the project develops.


New Build Townhouse

Purchasing The Property

Our client (before he was our client) purchased a 2 family townhouse in Brooklyn NY in 2016. He had no idea at the time but that the building had severe structural issues. The DOB and HPD put a vacate order on the building and gave the client 2 options. Either he can demolish the building or they would do it for him and then send him the bill. So the client chose to tear down the building himself. He then had an empty lot and he has since hired our architecture firm to design him a new bigger and better townhouse.


Getting Hired For Architectural Services to build a townhouse

The client originally wanted to build a 4 unit multifamily building after he tore down his townhouse. We immediately knew this would not be allowed by zoning because the client had a “small zoning lot. The property is in R6 Zoning which requires a minimum lot size of 1,7000 sq ft and a minimum lot width of 18 feet in order to develop a multi family building. His property was under this requirement which meant he could only build a 1 or 2 family townhouse.

The client informed me that another architect he spoke with had told him he could build 4 units on this site. I informed him that a one or two family townhouse would be his only option. I then sent him to the DOB homeowners night so he could hear it from them, since he had no idea who to listen to. He verified what I had told him and called us the next morning. He said “I would like to hire you to design my building”. We were very happy to do the job and immediately began on pre design and a complete zoning analysis.


Building a Townhouse Pre Design

We always start a new building project with site and zoning analysis as well as talking to the client about what they want of course. The property is in R6 Zoning and even though R6 allows multi family buildings we were restricted to building a one or two family house due to the lot size. We had an available 2.2 FAR or Floor Area Ratio allowing about 3,100 square feet to be built not counting the cellar. We ended up proposing a 4 story building with 775 square feet per floor. We also proposed building 2 duplex units. So the first 2 floors are one family and the top 2 floors are the second family.

Townhouse Zoning Analysis

New Townhouse Preliminary Zoning Analysis


New Townhouse Design

The client has happy with going forward on designing the 2 duplex units for the 2 family house. We proceeded with design working closely with the client. He was looking for a simple modern design. We decided on a building with a Fiber Cement Board rain screen with exterior insulation (this is very energy efficient) and closed cell spray insulation on the inside. Sustainable home design is important and high quality insulation design is critical. The rear facade and side will be stucco with EIFS Exterior Insulation and Finish System to reduce cost. Stucco is much cheaper then Fiber Cement Panels.

The Roof will have a roof deck with concrete pavers. The roof deck will be available to both families in the two family Townhouse. The rear yard will only be for the lower apartment occupying the first, second floors and part of the cellar. In this instance we are able to put a bathroom in the cellar since it is connected to the apartment above.

After working on the design we would eventually update the zoning analysis to a more detailed level.


NYC Small Building Development

New Townhouse Design Final Zoning Analysis


New Building Application (NB)

This Townhouse has been filed with the Department of Buildings as a New Building application, “NB”. We filed the project on the Development Hub which is the DOB online efiling for the Department Of Buildings. The New building application has been reviewed and we are currently working on achieving approvals. We will update this post as the progress continues. We hope to start construction in the beginning of Spring and complete by the end of the year.

Construction Contractor Selection

The client is not bidding out this job. He selected one contractor he already knew and actually had the contractor on board before he hired us to design the townhouse.


Exterior Building Rendering

New Brooklyn Townhouse Design

New Brooklyn Townhouse Design



We wish you good luck with your upcoming projects. Feel free to leave questions or comments below. If you wish to discuss a specific project you can contact us directly we would be happy to see if we can help.


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Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.