Floor Area Ratio

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The limit on the total floor area of a structure in relation to the area of the property is called the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). FAR is established in order to guide the bulk and volume of buildings. Not all buildings in Bellevue have a FAR limitation. Typically in-fill single family residences and additions, office buildings, and buildings in special areas and zones of the city can be expected to have a FAR.

What is Floor Area Ratio?

Floor Area Ratio, or FAR, is a measure of development intensity expressed as the ratio of gross building floor area to site area. For example, if a 10,000-square-foot building occupied a 20,000-square-foot site, its FAR would be expressed as 0.50, indicating that there is 1 square foot of building area for each two square feet of land area. If that same site contained a 2,000-square-foot building, the FAR would be 0.10 because the building area is equal to 10% of the land area.

What is the purpose of FAR?

Bellevue’s FAR provisions limit the intensity of office development in office and commercial land use districts outside of the Downtown. They encourage construction of office buildings of 50,000 square feet or less. This helps lessen impacts of bulk and scale on surrounding uses. Office buildings larger than 50,000 are not prohibited but are subject to stricter FAR limits, which require proportionately more land to support the increased building size. Proposed building size determines the amount of land required for development.

What are Bellevue’s FAR limits?*

Individual office buildings (and office portions of individual buildings) located in the PO, O, OLB, LI, GC, NB, or CB land use districts must comply with FAR limits*. Buildings with a gross floor area of 50,000 square feet (SF) or less are allowed a FAR of 0.50.

As building size increases above 50,000 SF, the allowable FAR decreases. A 100,000-SF building is allowed a maximum FAR of 0.30. A 150,000-SF building is allowed a maximum FAR of 0.10. Basically, for each 2,500-square-foot increase in building size over the first 50,000 square feet, the permitted FAR is reduced by 0.01. The chart below displays permitted FAR for building floor areas in increments of 2,500 square feet. FAR for floor areas between those shown on the chart is determined through interpolation. For example, each additional 250 square feet of gross floor area will reduce the permitted FAR by 0.001. All FAR limits are based on the gross office floor area of the building.

*If the site includes a critical area as designated by Land Use Code (LUC) 20.25H, these FAR limits do not apply. See LUC 20.25H.045.C for the applicable FAR provisions.

Can you give me an example?

Suppose you want to construct 150,000 square feet of office space but are undecided whether to construct it in one building or multiple buildings. Here are some scenarios showing different building sizes and applying the FAR from the chart on the reverse side to determine required lot area for each:

Scenario 1 – single building:

Bldg size - 150,000 SF / 0.10 FAR

= 1,500,000 SF minimum site area
1,500,000 total minimum site area required.

Scenario 2 – three buildings: 

Bldg 1 size – 70,000 SF / 0.42 FAR

= 166,667 SF minimum site area PLUS

Bldg 2 size – 40,000 SF / 0.50 FAR

= 80,000 SF minimum site area PLUS

Bldg 3 size – 40,000 SF / 0.50 FAR

= 80,000 SF minimum site area EQUALS
 
326,667 total minimum site area required.

Scenario 3 – three buildings:

Bldg 1 size - 50,000 SF / 0.50 FAR

= 100,000 SF min. site area PLUS

Bldg 2 size – 50,000 SF / 0.50 FAR

= 100,000 SF min. site area PLUS

Bldg 3 size – 50,000 SF / 0.50 FAR

= 100,000 SF min. site area EQUALS
300,000 total minimum site area required.

As you can see, Scenario 3, which keeps all buildings at or below 50,000 square feet, requires the least amount of land area.

Floor Area Ratio Chart

image of floor area ratio chart

What is meant by “gross floor area”?

Gross floor area means the total number of square feet within the inside finished wall surface of the outer building walls of a structure, excluding vent shafts, stairwells, and atriums.

For purposes of calculating FAR, gross floor area also excludes parking and mechanical areas.

Where can I get additional information?

What is Floor Area Ratio?

Floor Area Ratio, or FAR, is a measure of development intensity expressed as the ratio of gross floor area to site area. For example, if a 10,000-square-foot building occupies a 20,000-square-foot site, its FAR would be expressed as 0.50, indicating that there is 1 square foot of building area for each 2 square feet of land area. If that same site contained a 2,000-square-foot building, the FAR would be 0.10 because the building area is equal to 10% of the land area. Gross floor area includes the floor area of the ground floor and any additional stories of all buildings on the lot, including accessory structures.

What is the purpose of the Single-Family FAR threshold?

The single-family FAR threshold is intended to promote a graceful transition within neighborhoods that are experiencing redevelopment. The FAR threshold supports infill development that is compatible and complimentary to existing neighborhoods by establishing special development standards for homes exceeding a FAR threshold of 0.50.

What are Bellevue’s special development standards for single-family lots exceeding 0.50 FAR?

For structures exceeding the FAR threshold of 0.50, Bellevue has established the following additional development standards:

Establish minimum setbacks of 7.5 feet on both sides, AND

Incorporate EITHER daylight plane standards (roof pitch of 45 degrees beginning 10 feet above grade at the property line) (figure 1) OR establish a minimum five-foot second-story stepback.’

daylight plane example

Do these rules apply to me?

The single-family FAR threshold is applicable to all new single-family homes in existing neighborhoods (teardowns and vacant lots), new short plats, and existing single-family homes adding more than 20 percent of gross floor area.

Is anything exempt from the gross floor area calculation?

Attic areas which are unfinished and non-habitable are not included in the calculation of gross floor area. Carports, porches, and decks that are open on at least two sides are also exempt from the gross floor area calculation.

What about daylight basements and high ceiling rooms?

Those portions of partially exposed lower levels that are less than five feet above finished grade are exempt from gross floor area. High-volume spaces that are 18 feet or more in height are counted twice because that additional volume contributes to the bulk of the building.

The lots adjacent to me are already developed with very large homes. Do I still have to meet FAR threshold development standards if my proposed home is over 0.50 FAR?

Where can I get additional information?

The director may modify the FAR threshold requirements on either side of the structure where it can be demonstrated that the adjacent structure has been constructed in a manner that exceeds FAR threshold development standards.

What about new subdivisions?

New single-family homes constructed as part of a new subdivision pursuant to Land Use Code (LUC) 20.45A or planned unit development pursuant to LUC 20.30D are not subject to FAR threshold requirements.

What is Floor Area Ratio?

Floor Area Ratio, or FAR, is a measure of development intensity expressed as the ratio of gross building floor area to site area.

FAR Example 1

Gross building floor area = 10,000 square feet

Site area = 20,000 square feet

FAR = 10,000 / 20,000 or 0.50, indicating that there is one square-foot of building area for each two square-feet of land area.

FAR Example 2

Gross building floor area = 2,000 square feet

Site area = 20,000 square feet

FAR = 2,000 / 20,000 or 0.10, indicating the building area is equal to 10 percent of the land area

What is a Project Limit?

For purposes of the land use code, a project limit is treated as a single development parcel and can be:

  • a lot
  • a portion of a lot
  • a combination of lots
  • portions of lots

A project limit may cross a right-of-way if the project limit results in a cohesive design and is implemented within a master development plan.

What is the Floor Area Ratio Amenity Incentive System?

A development within a project limit may exceed the base FAR and base building height permitted within a BelRed land use district if it complies with the requirements of the BelRed Amenity Incentive System (LUC 20.25D.090). If a development project exceeds maximum building height, but not maximum FAR, then participation in the amenity incentive system is still required.

What are the specific BelRed FAR requirements?

To achieve the maximum FAR for the BelRed district, amenities from Tier 1 and Tier 2 must be provided at the specified ratio for every additional square foot of building area to be built beyond the base limit, which is 1.0 FAR.

The number of amenities required is based on the underlying land use district for the project. As an alternative to earn bonus FAR, payment of in-lieu fees may be used instead of developing the amenity listed.

  • A development within a single project limit must first fully utilize Tier 1 amenity bonuses before using Tier 2 amenity bonuses.
  • A residential development or a residential portion of a development must utilize Tier 1 amenities in the following order:
  • After fulfilling Tier 1, a development may utilize any of the amenity bonus types, whether from Tier 1 or Tier 2.

Image of Land Use Code Figure 20.25D.090.C

Are there any FAR Exemptions?

Per LUC 20.25D.090, floor areas dedicated to affordable housing, public restrooms, child care/nonprofit uses and active recreation areas are not counted for the purposes of calculating FAR. In addition, ground floor retail and enclosed plaza meeting the criteria set forth in LUC 20.25D.080.B.3.b.i & ii are also not counted.

Land that is dedicated to the city for right-of-way or to accommodate the linear alignment of a light-rail system, parks or open space, without compensation to the owner, may be used for computing maximum FAR. For specific requirements, refer to LUC 20.25D.080.D.

What can affect potential FAR?

Sites with critical areas or critical area buffers can impact the calculation of density/intensity on a project site. Refer to LUC 20.25H.045 for additional information on how to calculate density on sites with critical areas.

Where can I get additional information?

Office uses on sites with critical areas are subject to the FAR calculation in LUC 20.25H.045.