What is a mezzanine?
A mezzanine is an elevated space that is considered part of the story below. By code a mezzanine is not a story. A mezzanine will contribute to a building’s floor area ratio for zoning purposes, as per New York City Zoning.
Mezzanines in NYC
People often want to add mezzanines to their buildings, whether a new building or a building addition. There are many advantages in both situations. If you have an existing building with high ceilings, you can add a mezzanine to make better use of the space. Adding a mezzanine will require an Alteration Type 1 application with the DOB in NYC. If you are building a new building, a mezzanine may help you if you are trying to avoid hitting a certain number of stories. sometimes a mezzanine just helps the design and function of a space. Any building type can have a mezzanine but spaces like theaters commonly have them. Mezzanines must be listed on the Certificate Of Occupancy for a building.
A Mezzanine is a level located between the floor and ceiling within a story of a building. A mezzanine is not a story and is part of the room or story in which it is located. A mezzanine can be up to 33 1/3% of the room in it is located in, or in residential use, it can be 33 1/3% of the residential unit’s floor area within the given story.
The New York City Zoning Resolution does not have a clear definition on the word mezzanine and the NYC Building Code has a rather limited definition as well. The definition above and explanation below are my own interpretation based on the Zoning Resolution.
A Mezzanine is 33 1/3% or less of the floor area below. If you are building a mezzanine in an apartment, the mezzanine must be less then 33 1/3% of the apartment it is within. Otherwise mezzanines must be at most 33 1/3% of the room in which they are located. Mezzanines on the top floor of a building also affect the Rooftop Structure code. This code states that all structures on the roof cannot exceed 33 1/3% of the roof area. I always refer to zoning as a balancing act. You will need to comply with all the applicable codes. If you are good on one but not the other, you will not be able to build the mezzanine.
Does a Mezzanine Count for Zoning Floor Area in NYC?
YES! Mezzanines count for zoning floor area according to the New York City Zoning Resolution.
Chapter 12 of the New York City zoning Resolution includes the following as part of the definition of Zoning Floor Area:
“floor space in gallerias, interior balconies, mezzanines or bridges;”
Mezzanines are clearly included in the definition of Zoning Floor Area, therefore Mezzanines will contribute to a building’s FAR or Floor Area Ratio.
YES Mezzanines Count For FAR
Mezzanines will count for the building Floor Area Ratio. You need to calculate the mezzanine when doing your FAR calculations on your building. Even though the building code has some language stating a mezzanine does not count for floor area, it does not apply to Zoning. Zoning Code and Building Code are 2 different things. The Building Code stating mezzanines do not apply to floor area is for a different purpose.
Buildings Bulletin 2008-003 Clarifies the applicability of Mezzanine floor area with regards to Floor Area Ratio. There is some confusion on the subject due to the NYC Building Code Section 503.1, which essentially states that mezzanines do not count as floor area. The issue here is that these are 2 separate codes. One is the Building Code and One is the Zoning Resolution. They are addressing two separate matters. BC 503.1 has nothing to do with Floor Area Ratio or Zoning for that matter. Please believe me when I tell you Mezzanines do count for Floor Area Ratio of a building in New York City. Here is a quote from BB 2008-003
“Furthermore, this section does not provide any exemption for mezzanine floor area when determining compliance with the New York City Zoning Resolution. The floor area of the mezzanine must be included in the area calculations of the room in which the mezzanine is located, in accordance with the requirements of Section 12-10 of the Zoning Resolution (definition of floor area).”
Mezzanines In Residential Buildings
I will review one project we are doing for an 8 unit building in Brooklyn that will have 2 mezzanines. This building is technically a building enlargement although it is required to comply with New Building Codes (this is referred to as a “Big Alt”). We are basically demolishing most of the existing building. The enlargement is to an extent that the building will be required to follow all code requirements for new buildings.
Advantages Of A Mezzanine
The biggest reason we are putting mezzanines in this building is that the client wants as much residential floor area without requiring an elevator in the building. In this case we are building 4 stories plus a mezzanine. A 5 story building requires an elevator, but by adding a mezzanine we do not have a 5 story building as per NYC Building Codes. The building is therefore exempt from the elevator requirement.
Mezzanine Ceiling Heights
In most cases a Mezzanine ceiling height will be 8 feet clear bellow and above. Some exceptions may apply in certain cases where some designated spaces do not require a full 8 foot clearance. This will not be due to any special exemption for mezzanines, but rather there are certain areas that otherwise do not need a full 8 foot clearance as per code.
NYC Zoning Mezzanines
As an architect, I study codes very closely. NYC Zoning and Construction Codes are complicated and quite involved. In this article we reviewed some of the basic issues with regards to Mezzanines in New York City Buildings. This analysis does not assume to cover every possible issue and condition, but provide a general overview. This post does not substitute the NYC Zoning Resolution or Building Codes.
Thank You for reading our blog post on Mezzanine Codes and Mezzanine Design.
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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.