New Building Architectural Design Services NYC

by | Last updated May 17, 2024 | Architects

Architects design buildings and as an architect myself, I find that many people do not often understand what goes into a building design. In this post we will outline the new building design services an architect may provide.

I am an architect in NYC and owner of Fontan Architecture a Manhattan Based architecture firm this post is based on my experience and practices in New York City.


Predesign, Feasibility, & Zoning Analysis

The first step to any building design is pre-design or what is commonly referred to as a feasibility study. This is essentially figuring out a game plan. These are the most common points an architect, developer or property owner must consider before beginning to design a building.

There are many issues to consider in predesign especially as different sites or building programs may have different requirements.

The following is a list of what Predesign can most commonly include:

  • Site Selection
  • Zoning Analysis 
  • Programming
  • Site Survey
  • Geotechnical Analysis
  • Existing Building Assessment
  • Budgeting 
  • Project Timeline

New York city has incredibly complicated zoning regulations which makes a zoning analysis and feasibility study even more important.


Schematic Design

Schematic design is the first step in the architectural building design process. This is the basic design. Essentially schematic design outlines what a building is going to look like and how it will function. During the schematic design process, an architect will make massing studies and establish the shape and size of the building. The architect will then proceed to develop floor plans for the building layout including, rooms, circulation, elevators and stairs etc. Schematic design will also include a very preliminary idea of the exterior of building without much detail.

Schematic design a preliminary design established the function and general operation of the building as well as its shape and size. Schematic design does not have much detail and is more of a rough plan. During the schematic design process, architects may provide multiple design options based on the architectural terms of the service contract. At completion, the client and architect will agree on the general direction of the building design which the architect can proceed to further develop.


Design Development

After the completion of schematic design, the architect and client can agree to move forward developing one of the schemes selected during the schematic design process. Further development of a schematic design is known as design development. During the design development process, the architect will bring the engineers onto the project to begin designing building systems and structure. The architect will further develop the design adding more detail and getting into a higher level of specificity in the overall design, drawings, and specifications. Design Development is where a lot of detail questions will be answered and at the completion of design development you building design and overall design making process is complete, but this does not mean you are ready for construction.

Completing design development means we know what the building will look like, how it will function, and how all the spaces are laid out and how they will look. The architect and the engineering team still have to produce construction documents in order to prepare for construction and submit drawings for permitting.


Construction Documents

Construction Documents is the most extensive part of the architectural design process. This is where their architect and engineers prepare detailed drawings and specifications for construction. These drawings will have details for every part of the building. The following is a list of what may be found in an architectural set of construction documents.

  • Floor Plans
  • Ceiling Plans
  • Lighting Plans
  • Building Elevations
  • Building Section Drawings
  • Wall Sections
  • Construction Details
  • Waterproofing and Thermal Details
  • Large scale plans for bathrooms or other spaces
  • Foundation Plans and Details
  • Structural Drawings and Details
  • Support of Excavation
  • Heating and Air Conditioning 
  • Plumbing and Gas Plans and riser Diagrams
  • Equipment Plans and Specifications
  • Sprinkler Plans and Specs
  • Fire Alarm Design
  • Safety Plans
  • Finish Plans 
  • Material and Product Specifications

These are just some of the items that can be included in the Construction Documents for a building design.


Filing and Permitting

Filing and permitting is an extensive and involved process. This is when the architect submits drawings and paperwork to the Department of Buildings to be reviewed for approvals in order to obtain permits. Every project is different, and some will have more bureaucracy than others. There may be many other agencies involved depending on the project. In NYC, any of the following agencies may have jurisdiction over your project and require filling and approval in order to develop a property.

Agencies having jurisdiction on property development in NYC:

  • Department of Buildings (DOB)
  • Department of City Planning (DCP)
  • Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA)
  • Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
  • Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
  • Department of Finance (DOF)
  • Department of Transit (DOT)
  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
  • Fire department of New York (FDNY)
  • Department of Health (DOH)
  • Borough President

These are just some of the agencies that may have jurisdiction on your project. The list of what agencies will be involved will vary from project to project.



When all the construction documents are complete, the owner can bid out the job to construction contractors. In some cases, there will not be a bidding process if the owner wishes to hire a contractor directly without competitive bidding. As always, I will suggest you never hire the lowest bidder. During this process the architect will answer questions known as RFIs – Request for Information. At the conclusion of bidding, the owner will have proposals from the contractors and can select the GC (General Contractor).


Construction Administration

During construction, an architect will perform what is called “construction administration”. This is not construction management, although some architects provide construction management as well. During construction administration, the architect will perform periodic site visits to check on the job and generally make sure the work is following the design. During the process the architect will answer questions, assist in quality control, address unforeseen conditions, review change orders and cam even review contractor pay requisitions.

The extent of construction administration services will vary based on the project and the contract services.


Project Closeout

At the completion of the construction there is a lot more bureaucracy to go through, that I usually refer to as project closeout. There will be inspections, sign off paperwork with DOB, getting a building address, acquiring a Certificate of Occupancy etc.


NYC Architects Building Design Services

Different architects work in different ways, and every project has its unique conditions. The architect should be involved in the project from start to finish to achieve a successful project. The extent of the architect’s involvement will be a variable based on the scope of work and architecture services contract. The more service, the more fees you can expect. The lower the fees, the less services one should expect.


Thank you for reading our blog post on our Architectural Building Design Services in NYC

I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


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.