Buildable Envelope

The maximum space on a lot within which a structure can be built, as permitted by applicable height and other factors, is referred to as the buildable envelope. It’s important to know this when you’re working in a market that deals in square footage of buildable space. “The goal is to fill up as much buildable area as you can, within the envelope that’s prescribed by zoning,” says Robert Uhrin, principal at design firm Cooper Carry. “Designing hotels isn’t like doing an office building in which you can just do a footprint that’s the size and then extract it. You have to carve out the room sizes you need for the brand as well as all the other necessities without leaving any wasted space.” Each zoning district has a floor area ratio (FAR) which, when multiplied by the area of the zoning lot, produces the maximum amount of floor area allowable on that zoning lot. For example, on a 10,000-square-foot zoning lot in a district with a maximum FAR of 2.0, the floor area on the zoning lot cannot exceed 20,000 square feet.