Wednesday, December 12, 2012

[ brooklyn brownstone renovation ] - progress photos 12.05.12

The brownstone interior renovation in Cobble Hill is coming to a close. 

Progress is as follows:

  • The walls are closed with all base plumbing and electric in the base design complete.
  • The shop drawings for millwork and deck have been approved and are in fabrication.
  • Door hardware is on order (Pam at has been very helpful on this).
Major remaining scope items:
  • Floors (vintage blond wide plank flooring that has been protected by linoleum for years) are being done this week. 
  • Installation of ordered plumbing and lighting
  • Installation of millwork, deck, and new LPC approved windows.
Here are the construction shots from 12.05.12, still a work in progress, the design should be apparent soon:

[ master bath ] - framed, recess for cabinet cut

[ master bath ] - new shower with full body sprays pre-install

[ master bath ] - new alcove whirlpool with wall mount plumbing hookups
[ master bedroom ] - new sheetrock, clean finish, new oak flooring to be finished (samples this week)
[ kitchen ] - removing rear plaster to run new electric to exterior deck

[ kitchen ] - existing pocket door with new track installed, new plywood ceiling to accept vintage tin ceiling
[ great room ] - conduit to run AV wires to above mantle TV / AV location

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

[ Hurricane Sandy Aftermath ] - Brooklyn, partial: 10.30.12

First off, if you're reading this, we're fine and have all power and necessities. Other areas of the city are facing much longer odds and need far more attention than this area.


We took a drive yesterday to look around and survey the damage in Brooklyn in the aftermath of Sandy.

We started in Red Hook, an industrial area on the coast of Brooklyn.

Throughout the travels, numerous trees were ripped up, but the lot near the Red Hook Ikea had a tree that was ripped up from the root, taking sidewalk and earth with it...

This small power boat arrived at it's dry dock probably due to some flooding that we'll show the effects of in a minute...

Flooding at an industrial office building at Van Brunt street near, street covered to curb, but look carefully at the dark line at the left. That is not a difference in brick color, but rather where the water level rose to. Those are large flood doors, so it's reasonable to put the water at approximately 7 feet above the curb here at high point.

Worth mentioning, the first picture shows a supermarket (Safeway) that apparently took on a large amount of water damage. Spoke with a worker and was told that the entire store was flooded and most of the food supplies ruined. Weeks before that store opens and an already underserved area of Brooklyn takes a major service hit...

When you see rainbow hues in the water, know you're in an industrial area of the city, and see flooding, you have to wonder whether or not you are looking at a future superfund site. Walking about the area was very slippery... 

Driving in the flooded streets. Again the water level here was probably 6-9 feet above what is shown here at peak. This car would have been underwater at high tide.

Here I am in (in my trusty University of Memphis sweatshirt of course) holding my hand at the level the flood waters rose to. Out of frame on the floor above is a studio resident who holed up in his office with a few pints of good beer and rode it out in this coastal building, despite the mandatory evacuation of the Red Hook area, as it was in Area 'A' for coastal flooding.

Said he had two backup options. Panic, and further panic. Said if the water got to the second floor (while it got high, it didn't get that high), he'd jump and swim for it.

A for effort and moxie, D for staying in a dangerous area and not evacuating. This sort of thinking is what can force first responders into dangerous and potentially deadly situations.

The gentleman mentioned above says that across the bay the water rose to the level of the tracks at the earth movers. Pretty impressive.

Dark lines show the water level.

One last observation for Red Hook. Much of the city is at sea level, so water gets in basements pretty easily during normal storms. A historic hurricane? Numerous gas powered pumps were located everywhere


After Red Hook, the next stop was DUMBO, damage was less obvious as this is another area that is coastal already and is used to taking some water on. We parked on Front and started walking towards the water.

Well, this artist got their wish...

A larger building again using a large pump to remove the water from the basement. This will be a recurring theme throughout the city for the coming weeks. When people wonder why the MTA can't open below 34th street for the coming weeks. MTA emergency workers are doing this throughout the system.

Standing in front of the Galapagos Art Space (site of this fun presentation as part of , looking at the bridge. The entire street has some flooding left over. The photographer got a great shot of the bridge reflected in the water.

Fence along the river knocked in.

A car that took a tree to the side. First Round TKO.


After seeing DUMBO, our last stop before heading back to central Brooklyn was Coney Island / Brighton Beach. We drove down the Belt Parkway, which was flooded in some parts...

It was pretty spooky and lightly populated:

But the news was there, so we were hoping to see local anchors lose their hats...

While Coney Island is usually a little light in traffic after the season, this sort of damage is still telling. The last fence is not a chain link fence, but a large solid metal fence. This took a little force.

The trailers supporting construction by the Minor League A team (the Brooklyn Cyclones after the roller coaster and not the storm) have been turned, angled, and one was flipped on its side.

The news here is sand, lots of sand...

Burying fences...

Burying handrails...

Burying the boardwalk...

And burying the roads.

Even burying the amusement park rides off the boardwalk.

The wind damage pulled off signage...

And power...


With observations made, we left for home and tried to dry safely, avoiding some of the road issues.


Obviously, if you've watched the news, other areas have taken a far worse beating. Long Island, parts of Queens, Manhattan under 34th, the Jersey Shore, and urban NNJ have damage tens of times worse than what is documented above. The residents of these neighborhoods are lucky that this is all we're facing and my best wishes and hopes go to those in my region facing far steeper recovery slopes.

Anyway, that's the view from here, I'll update as progress is made...

- AH

Note: Most photo credits (the better ones) by Yasmin Mistry ( / facebook )

Monday, October 1, 2012

[ competition entry ] - vancouver 100 mile house

100 Mile House Open Ideas Competition by Architecture Foundation of British Columbia. Competition was for idas on a '100 mile' house made almost exclusively of local materials and systems while respecting local building ideas and codes

While it did not win, we were proud of the presentation and feel this would be a wonderful addition to the architectural fabric of Vancouver. 

[ presentation board - left ]

[ presentation board - right ]

[ first floor plan ]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skillshare class: Value in purchasing and renovating

I am teaching a monthly pop-up class with a Bryce Sanders, a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson in NYS, about achieving maximum value for your investment dollar in making smart decisions in what to buy and how to renovate.

We have taught this class twice and look forward to teaching it again soon. With the amount of material we're producing during this process, we have created a clearinghouse webpage at and hope that this can provide some guidance and encouragement to those pursuing real estate investments at this time.

The class goes through a few basic points:
- What is value under current market conditions?
- What attributes make a neighborhood desirable?
- What attributes can maximize usable square footage?
- What renovations add long term value to your new property?
- How do you prepare to be ready to act decisively? 

We wanted to share a portion of the class here. Posted video of the narrated powerpoint below:

More information is available by:
- emailing myself or Bryce.
- looking at the class page

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A construction project can be daunting, how does one start?

It's a common refrain. "I'd like to start a construction project, but I don't know how to start the process."

Often, that means sitting on the project and not seeing it through. It's an intimidating process to contemplate.

- How do I file the job?
- How do I determine the cost?
- How long will it take?
- What are potential pitfalls to be aware of during the process?

One way to get the ball rolling is to discuss with your architect doing a 'feasibility study'

This is a process where the architect meets with the client, discusses their goals for the property, and then executes a short drawing package to provide rough schedule with budgetary pricing (including professional fees, potential DOB costs, etc).

This allows the client to have a rough drawing package and budget in order to make an informed decision on the viability of the job with a minimal initial commitment. Often, this can costs low four figures (or can even be pursued hourly) and if the client goes through with the job, this is credited towards the full project fee.

What does one look like? Below is an example of a residential feasibility study.

The first step is to execute a small drawing set that can be given to GCs in order to get a rough price. For example:
Existing Elevations [ click for enlarged ]
Existing Plans [ click to enlarge ]
Feasibility Option SK-1 [ click to enlarge ]
Feasibility Option SK-2 [ click to enlarge ]
Feasibility Option SK-3 [ click to enlarge ]
The drawings above reflect the following process:
- Measure the existing conditions.
- Design three potential ideas of how the project could be executed.
- Transmit these sketches to contractors for pricing.

Once the sketches are discussed, revised, and noted, then we transmit them to a contractor or two that are trusted and appropriate for the project type. Often a contractor will happily give you a ballpark number and schedule in hopes of winning the job. Once this is done, the next step is to provide a feasibility project budget.


Feasibility Budget - Page 1, GC's budget [ click to enlarge ]

Feasibility Budget - Page 2, GC's budget, appliances [ click to enlarge ]

Feasibility Budget - Page 3, Professional Fees & Total Budget [ click to enlarge ]

This budget reflects:
- The rough budget provided from the contractor(s).
- The budget for items provided by owner
- The professional fees
- The fees and license costs (estimated) from government organizations.

Once the drawings and budget are completed, the client then can rest easy knowing exactly what they're getting into prior to commissioning the entire project.

Removing the fear of the unknown relatively early in the process can make the project potentially more attractive to client considering making the investment.