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Thread: Building bulk and massing

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    Building bulk and massing

    I am trying to write a performance standard that takes account of the difference between what one can quantify about the scale of a building, which I am, for now, calling building bulk and measuring by floor area ratio, and what people perceive about the scale of a building. Experience suggest that a simple bulk measurement doesn't capture perceptual issues. I am tentatively calling the peceptual "measure" building massing.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Any language from design guidelines?

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I am trying to write a performance standard that takes account of the difference between what one can quantify about the scale of a building, which I am, for now, calling building bulk and measuring by floor area ratio, and what people perceive about the scale of a building. Experience suggest that a simple bulk measurement doesn't capture perceptual issues. I am tentatively calling the peceptual "measure" building massing.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Any language from design guidelines?
    While an old code (unless recently updated?) The City of Denver has a bulk plane/massing code (originally designed to protect the view of the mountains from City parks). Also included bulk plane to FAR analysis.....Google Bulk Plane and you should find some good stuff....
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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I really don't know why they don't just set setbacks and a height limit and then forgoe FAR. FAR seems redundant at that point.

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    Cyburbian
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    I am dealing with a similar (or the same even) issue

    I am working on a village center by-law. We are seeking to promote the use of pitched roofs. We have decided to allow three story buildings with a limit that the third story portion of the building consume no more than 65% of the footprint of the story below. An architect has raised the question, given a story under state building code must have a ceiling height of 7'3", what is to stop a developer from simply lowering hte roof by 1", meeting the letter of the law but not the intent?

    If we established that no more than XX% can be above 35' we promote a boxy look that complies but is not the look we want. The first draft required a 1:1 pitch away from the front facade, but this promotes no variation in design.

    My current thought is to require that there be a pitch (1:1 or something similar) from the exterior facade (unstated as to which one to allow for design variations) at elevation 28 feet, to the maximum height, 42 feet, except for roof pitch areas and dormers as allowed by the Special Permit Granting Authority.

    The concept is to address the visual massing of the structure as seen from public rights-of-way, but to allow for significant interior mass none-the-less. We are drafting architectural guidelines to go along with this by-law.

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    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    We do this with form and building type guidelines. Have a look here and use Download A in Section 4, Area Plans, then use the bookmarks (it is a PDF) to go to Section 4.1.2 Built Form. This will take you to our built form controls for Charlestown - our largest commercial centre. There are many other examples reachable from the link but they don't have the same variety of building type you will find in the Charlestown guidelines. We do not use FSR's in commercial centres, favouring the built form guidelines.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    These are some of the guidelines I did for our downtown design review (historic) district. Unless you are writing for just a specific new development, specific piece of property or small area it hard to really get more specific.

    Scale: The overall massing of a building is very important to the appropriateness of the resulting structure. A building that lacks proper scale and appears too large or too small for its location is often inappropriate even if all other elements are successful. Scale is achieved through a combination of siting, height, and proportions. The materials used for a building and the texture of those materials can effect the perceived scale. Proper scale can be achieved for a proposed building taller than its counterparts by utilizing stepped design to minimize the mass. In some instances a deviation from the scale of adjacent buildings can allow for a varied and interesting streetscape. Requests for a deviation from the existing scale will be reviewed on an individual basis.
    Avoid the use of long unbroken expanses of wall surface along a building façade, this will allow the building to have a rhythm and human scale. Special consideration should be given to the street level treatment so that a pedestrian scale is maintained.

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    Quote Originally posted by ambmason
    These are some of the guidelines I did for our downtown design review (historic) district. Unless you are writing for just a specific new development, specific piece of property or small area it hard to really get more specific.

    Scale: The overall massing of a building is very important to the appropriateness of the resulting structure. A building that lacks proper scale and appears too large or too small for its location is often inappropriate even if all other elements are successful. Scale is achieved through a combination of siting, height, and proportions. The materials used for a building and the texture of those materials can effect the perceived scale. Proper scale can be achieved for a proposed building taller than its counterparts by utilizing stepped design to minimize the mass. In some instances a deviation from the scale of adjacent buildings can allow for a varied and interesting streetscape. Requests for a deviation from the existing scale will be reviewed on an individual basis.
    Avoid the use of long unbroken expanses of wall surface along a building façade, this will allow the building to have a rhythm and human scale. Special consideration should be given to the street level treatment so that a pedestrian scale is maintained.
    ambmason,
    how have you translated these guidelines into regulations? Or do you simply do a performance based evaluation of proposals against your guidelines on a case by case basis? If so, how do you ensure consistent application?

    Cheers

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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    The City of Toronto has done something similar, with "the avenues" project. It establishes maximum heights and angles of incidence for sunlight depending on the width of roadways, setbacks and the height of adjacent buildings.

    Here are some links (in archives)

    http://www.toronto.ca/torontoplan/reports.htm#17

    it is also in their Offiical Plan

    http://www.toronto.ca/torontoplan/official_plan.htm
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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    Regarding Historic Districts Questions RE: FAR and Visibility of Changes from public byway

    Hi, new to the forum here. I have 4 questions pertaining to historic districts:

    1. Way back in 2004 Lee Nellis posed a question regarding assessment of perception versus the application of FAR to determine of excessive mass.

    Because of a historic preservation concern, I have been wondering the same. Did Lee Nellis ever come to a conclusion?

    2. Similarly, It strikes me that perception of bulk trumps FAR (floor to lot area ratio), whether because A. the impression is valid for suggesting an untoward use of cubic space or because B.methods to break up the appearance of massiveness weren't successfully applied. I would think that FAR is useful when the criteria is not met and redirects the architect to return to reconfigure the space to meet FAR criteria that indicate that these are inappropriate in its proportions, and that otherwise normal FAR should be ignored as an exclusion of excessive bulk. It should not be used as justification to ignore the perception of bulk as in "The numbers are right so it must be okay." A number of additions to historic buildings or new infill structures that strike me as being massive have had normal FAR values. And this leads me to ask is there any research about use of FAR for ruling in but not ruling out excess scale/mass?

    3. Also, I do not understand the means of assigning a FAR of 0.9 vs. 1.0 vs. 1.5 vs. 2 etc...I understand that it offers flexibility to stack or spread, but it is not intuitive to me what goes into designating a zone with a FAR number. In our case, we live in an historic residential zone with FAR 1.5, 35% open space requirement, height 35 ft (or 45 with special use permit) limit.

    4. Do all historic districts governing bodies depend on evaluate only what is visible from a public by-way? If not please share examples and tell me why if visibility requirement were rejected. I am concerned that this criteria is making for façade preservation, the old partial demolition preservation approach where the rear substance of buildings and especially their ells are expendable and once the rear is disposed, this becomes precedent-setting.

    Thank you for considering. MP

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