What does FAR mean?

FAR stands for “Floor to Area Ratio” and it’s used in some municipalities and zones to determine how big of a building can be built on a certain parcel.  The problem is it’s not widely used in determination, unless the parcel is in a bigger city.

FAR stands for "Floor to Area Ratio."

This is the ratio of land to building and can give a developer a way of identifying the size of a building that is allowed on a parcel.  So if the “by right” FAR of a parcel is 3:1, then after the setbacks are drawn, the area of land can be multiplied by 3 and that would give a ballpark of the size of the building that could be built.


That said, only some municipalities use FAR to determine the size of buildings, others have guidelines for lot coverage and that can determine the building size.  


When determining the building size, setbacks (the amount of space required on all sides of a building) are required.  The FAR is then used on the footprint of the building. 

Here is an example:

A 10,000 SF parcel that is 100 ft x 100 ft with universal setbacks of 10 feet all around would have a footprint of 6,400 SF.  If the FAR was 3:1 the building that could be built would have a maximum size (also known as the “building envelope”) of 19,200 SF. See the example to the right.

The math looks like this:

80 x 80 = 6,400 (the building footprint)

3:1 FAR: 6,400 x 3 = 19,200 (the building envelope)