Ask an Architect: Can I Do This?

The Ask an Architect series speaks with acclaimed NYC architects to learn what homeowners should be thinking about before they begin renovations on their homes. This time, we speak with NYC architect Yuuki Kitada.

Hello again, serial or beginner renovators!

In this latest installment of the “Ask an Architect” series, we speak with acclaimed architect Yuuki Kitada of NYC’s Yuuki Kitada Architect PLLC. This design phenom is a celebrated residential and commercial architect who has worked for some of the world’s most famous architectural firms (including I.M. Pei Company’s Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates) on some of the world’s most illustrious projects (MoMA extension) before branching out on his own.

yuuki kitada building model

Image Source: Yuuki Kitada

Ask an Architect: Question 1.

I just bought a vacant NYC brownstone. Can I remove a floor to create higher ceilings in one of the apartments? For instance, I think the ceilings on my second floor are too low. Is it possible to remove the third floor to create super high ceilings? Will I disrupt the integrity of the building? Is it really expensive?

[Yuuki Kitada] It all depends on the condition of the building. For any major structural changes, you will need to hire a structural engineer who the architect/designer will then work with to modify and reinforce the building’s structure.

It IS possible to remove the floors, but be aware that it can be very expensive. For example, if you don’t want to have columns in the space, you will need to reinforce and strengthen the building’s structure, which can be extremely costly.

Ask an Architect: Question 2.

I own a building. I don’t like the windows on the front. I think they’re too small. Can I make them much bigger? Will making them bigger disrupt the integrity of the façade?

[Yuuki Kitada] Talk to an architect or contractor first.This is another one of those times when you should speak with a structural engineer. This is key if the opening that you want to make is bigger than the existing structure frames, for example. Another thing to be aware of, if the building is a landmark building, you cannot change the façade design.

Yuuki Kitada bathroom reno

Image Source: Yuuki Kitada

Ask an Architect: Question 3.

I want to live in my house during a full renovation. Is this a good or bad idea?

[Yuuki Kitada] As long as you don’t change the CO (certificate of occupancy) and there aren’t any specific zoning issues, you can continue to live in the space. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend living in a full renovation. Even if you have super careful/clean contractors who come equipped with exhaust fans, vinyl sheets, and who seal during construction, there will still be dust, debris, and smell. You will get sick.

Also it will be very stressful for your family’s schedule and privacy with all of the tradespeople coming in and out, a situation that also raises possible security issues. And you see the site every day. You might pick up on many little things that you don’t have to know about. That will delay the project as well!

Ask an Architect: Question 4.

Is it easy to give a traditional brownstone a modern makeover? We want to keep the outside the same but make the interior thoroughly modern.

[Yuuki Kitada] As long as it’s not a landmark interior (which is very rare for residential properties), it’s possible. And even if it’s not a landmark interior, it might take little longer to do the work and cost a lot more to demolish. An example would be if you have decorative structural elements like decorative curving structure columns and beams that you have to replace.

Yuuki Kitada sketch

Image Source: Yuuki Kitada

Main Image Source: Yuuki Kitada


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  1. Steve
    October 30, 2015

    I am doing a full dormer on my residential cape house in whitestone Queens. Basically adding a full second floor. I would like to put central ac on the second floor only. I will use a 3 ton unit. Do I need to add this to my plans and get permits for this?

  2. Victoria Keichinger
    November 9, 2015

    Hi Steve,
    A work permit or equipment use permit is generally not required to install a common window AC unit, unless the unit exceeds three tons/36,000 BTU/hr.


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