You will most likely be hiring an architect if you are planning a renovation we will review the process and general formation on interior renovation services for architecture and design.
I am an architect in New York with an office in Manhattan Fontan Architecture, we do a variety of project types including interior renovations. This post will be a sort of introduction and overview of architecture and design services for interior renovations in NYC.
- Architectural Design Services
- Filing & Approvals
- Construction Administration
- Project Closeout
Architectural Design Services for Interior Renovations
So you want to hire an architect for an interior renovation in NYC. I will not really be going into architects fees or how to select an architect. I have another post on architectural fees if you want to check that out or you can read about hiring an architect. Instead I am going to give a basic overview of what an architect does and their general services.
As an architect I always begin projects with a conversation with my clients to understand what they want and their goals. It is helpful if the client has some inspirational images but this is not absolutely necessary. Some clients put massive Pinterest Boards together. Once he have some direction we assess the existing conditions and prepare an existing conditions drawing.
Once the parameters are set and the existing conditions are assessed we can proceed with design. Design is like a funnel, we start with the big decisions at the top and work our way down to smaller details. In the beginning we are doing overall planning working with the client to make big picture architectural decisions. Once that is done we can get into more detail. Every project is different. When hiring an architect you will want to understand what services you are getting. Will the architect do only big picture architectural services or will they provide interior design services as well.
Architectural Drawings for a Kitchen
At a Showroom With a Client
Filling and Approvals
Yes there is a bunch of bureaucracy to contend with even for a simple apartment interior renovation. Almost all renovations in NYC require permits and approvals from the Department of Buildings, unless you are really doing minimal cosmetic work. If you are in a multifamily building this adds another layer of bureaucracy. Every building is different but in most cases the building management approval process makes the Department of Buildings look good. I have worked in some buildings where the management just takes forever to review. So be prepared for this process.
The general process for an interior renovation in a multifamily building works like this:
Once the architectural plans and specifications are finished (or at least close enough to finished) they are sent to the building management agency and building Co-Op or Condo Board. In almost all cases in Manhattan and in many cases in the Boroughs the drawings will be sent to a reviewing architect. They will review and return comments. This will have some back and forth and take a little time. Sometimes it is smooth and painless sometimes it is a mess. You cannot file with the Department of Buildings until the board authorizes you. When the review is finished the board will give their blessing to proceed with DOB filing.
In our office we handle all the filling in-house. I do not work with “expediters”, the few jobs I have had with expediters were always a mess so we just do everything ourselves. When filling with the DOB there is no way to guess how long it will take, it really depends on the job specifics and the person it is assigned to. The DOB will review the job, there will be some back and forth here, but eventually it will be approved. Once it is approved the contractor can get a permit.
Bidding Interior Renovations
Bidding just means having multiple contractors price the job. The architect can assist during the bidding process. I almost never recommend hiring the lowest bidder. Not all jobs will be bid out, sometimes you will hire a contractor directly and only consider one contractor. As I write this I have an Interior renovation for a SoHo loft I have been working on where I recommended one contractor to the client, they met him, liked him and said they want to work with him. They never bothered getting multiple bids and this project is going to be over 2 million in construction.
The architect can do walk throughs with the GCs during the interview and bidding process. Also the architect will answer RFIs or Request For Information. This just means they will answer the contractor’s questions.
Architects do not supervise construction, but they do perform periodic site visits and assists in an advisory role during the renovation. Some architects will not include this service in their scope of work and some will. Many architect will charge hourly or flat rate per visit for construction administration services on interior renovations. If the architect does not include these services in their initial price then their price may be a bit lower if they do include it their price may be higher. If you are looking to high an architect for an interior renovation in NYC you will want to make sure you understand what is and is not included.
Architects Services and Role During Construction for Interior Renovations
- Advise the contractor on an as needed basis
- Issue SKs (sketches)
- Perform site visits and visually review the work
- Provide Progress Inspections for DOB
- Coordinate Special Inspections for DOB
- Authorize the contractors pay requisitions
- Verify materials and products are provided as specified
- Quality Control
- General Oversight / Looking Out for Owner’s Best Interest
- Punch List
Advisory Role: The architect operates as a consultant for the contractor and owner during the renovation work process. This pretty much means the architect is there to answer questions and help out where needed. There are lots of little things to consider and this can add up to quite a bit of time and services.
Issue SKs: SKs mean sketches. As an architect we issue a full set of drawings before construction but often the contractor realizes they need a little more clarity or detail while in the middle of construction. This is normal. We then can provide an additional SK to the contractor to give clarity.
Amendments: Amendments and Sks are two different things. Amendments means there needs to be a design change and this may require filling with the Department of Buildings. This can be caused by something like the owner changing their mind, a budget issue, or after demolition the contractor uncovers unforeseen conditions such as gas pipes in a strange place. These things happen. Amendments will normally be treated as additional services by the architect and incur additional fees, unless the architect builds it into their original scope of work.
Site Visits: The architect will perform site visits and visually review the work. These are not extensive inspections, but the architect generally checking in on things and seeing if they can help. There is no way that I can emphasize team work. Architects and contractors need to work together. If they start playing blame games this is not always sign of something wrong with the work. In many cases it is a personality problem. Please run away from any contractors or architects who seem like they will not work well in a team.
DOB Progress Inspections: The NYC Department of Buildings has progress inspections that the architect and engineers must complete and submit Technical Reports to the DOB upon completion. These progress inspections will vary from job to job based on the type of work being performed.
Special Inspections: Special Inspections are also required by the Department of Buildings but these cannot be done by just any architect or engineer they require a special inspection license. The architect may or may not provide this themselves. The contractor is not allowed to provide the inspection agency.
GC Payment Reqs: The contractor will submit payment requisitions throughout the process. If you want, the architect can review these to make sure the contractor is keeping on pace with the payments and work. Making sure the contractor doesn’t send an invoice saying he is 50% complete but the job is only 10% done in reality. To be honest I rarely do this most clients don’t ask for help on this, and when they do it is usually just a quick phone chat to answer a few questions.
Verify Materials and Products: An architect will visit the job site and see if the contractor is providing the correct materials and products and not switching them for cheaper and inferior materials. I will give an example: In NYC almost every building requires the same waterproof membrane for kitchens and bathrooms. This is pretty standard it is Laticrete 9235. This membrane is quite expensive. I had a job where the contractor was painting the floor with primer to fake as if they were installing the membrane. No kidding 3 grown men thought they would get away with this, obviously they did not. Because of this and several other infractions the client fired them and hired another contractor. This is what you should expect from the lowest bidder on your job.
Quality Control: The architect will generally make sure the contractor is working within an appropriate level of quality.
General Oversight: The architect is working on your behalf. It is good to have a little oversight and make sure there is someone looking out for your best interest.
Punch List: At the end of the job there is always a punch list of items to review the architect will assist here and help get the job finished.
At the end of the job there are certain administrative tasks to be completed. This includes submitting sign off paperwork to DOB and any other agencies such as Landmarks for Interior Renovation sign off, or DOF if you are combining Condo Units. At our office we handle most of this in-house once the job is complete.
After all that the only thing for you to do is move on with your life and enjoy your home.
Interior Renovation Architectural and Design Services in NYC
As an architect, I study design and construction, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. Every project is different and must be assessed on its own unique characteristics. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.
Thank you for reading our blog post on an Architect’s Interior Renovation Services in New York City.
I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect you can contact us directly.
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 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.