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About Us

Co-founded in 1998 by Rebecca Ascher and Joshua Davis, Ascher Davis Architects is dedicated to the art and business of architecture and interior design. Incorporating architectural details, lighting, and furnishings as an integral part of the overall design, ADA creates architecture that is both thoughtfully designed and cohesive in nature.

Over the years, the partners have built a team of loyal designers and project managers who are in sync with their style of working, thinking, and designing. The team at ADA manages large-scale projects on a regular basis, yet remains committed to offering the personal attention of a boutique firm.

Understanding that client service is at the core of what they do, the team at ADA is dedicated to working with clients in all phases of their projects. By carefully listening to each client’s needs and keenly focusing on the schematic phase of a project, ADA ensures that the plans for the space are unified and respect the individual tastes and desires of the client. In addition, ADA devotes a substantial amount of time to ensuring that construction runs smoothly, as the team believes that monitoring a job from start to finish is vital to success.


Services

Ascher Davis Architects provides a deeply layered structure of architecture and interior design services for both residential and corporate clients. We offer a carefully tailored list of scalable services and apply experience gained from a broad range of projects to ensure that the individual needs of each client are met.

RESIDENTIAL

At the core of ADA’s services is our high-end residential work. The firm began with a collection of these projects, successfully developing and building them into our way of thinking. We provide a scalable blend of architecture and interior decorating services, adjusting to the size and scope of different project types as our clients require. By overseeing projects from initial design to final decoration of the interior, we produce residences that are thoughtfully executed and meticulously managed. Each project is unique, as the process for making a space into a home must focus on a client’s individual criteria.

ARCHITECTURE

From tiny city studios to large country homes, ADA renovates apartments and buildings and designs new construction on a broad scale. We approach projects with careful scrutiny of both the overall design and the building’s technical infrastructure, which allows us to develop and integrate critical systems into our designs at the outset and ensures that the end product is seamless and consistent. We work closely with contractors, focusing on timelines and the coordination of trades. We also work closely with consultants, such as mechanical, structural, and audio/visual, to integrate their systems into the overall design.

With New York City projects, we are intimately engaged in the building review and Department of Buildings filing processes. We also involve ourselves in construction administration, interfacing with builders and owners throughout the duration of the project.

INTERIOR DESIGN

ADA’s full interior design and decorating services further us to create unique, fully integrated environments for our clients. Our services include overall concept designs, furniture sourcing and placement, the design of custom furniture millwork, and the selection of paints, floor coverings, and other decorative items. We expertly weave lighting, furniture, and fabrics with color palettes, textures, and other elements to create the overall spatial experiences of the home. In addition, we also offer meticulous project management of issues related to purchasing, order tracking, scheduling, delivery and installation, and post move-in services.

CORPORATE & INSTITUTIONAL

ADA provides a broad range of services to building owners, developers, real estate concerns and financial institutions, all of whom continually tackle issues relating to new and remedial work in a multitude of building types. As with other scopes of work, we understand that responsiveness is keenly important as we identify, address, and resolve various client matters. We work closely with building management, staff, and legal teams to create reports, issue directives, develop programs, and monitor the progress of the work during construction.

NEW WORK

  • Design and development of sales, leasing, and management offices
  • Interior renovations at hallway and lobby, and amenity space renovations and redesigns
  • Interior renovations at service and back-of-house infrastructural spaces
  • Design standards and guidelines
  • Model and bulk apartment renovations for upgrades or conversions
  • NYC DOB filings for new conditions
  • Marketing materials for sponsors & owners
  • Alteration reviews
  • Exterior storefront design, including integration of necessary signage

REMEDIAL WORK

  • Local Law 11 inspections and filings with the NYC DOB
  • Inspections, surveys and reports for building owners
  • Curing of NYC DOB violations and stop work orders
  • Architect’s building condition reports for co-op offering plans
  • Inspections, affidavits and development of work scope in support of restoring:
    • DHCR rent reduction orders
    • HPD C-violations
    • Owner’s recapturing of MCI funding
  • Site documentation and existing conditions drawings
  • NYC DOB filings to correct existing conditions
  • Alteration reviews


Partners

Rebecca Ascher, RA

Co-founder

Rebecca is primarily involved in ADA’s high-end residential projects, often serving as both architect and interior designer. She brings exquisite taste and extraordinary attention to detail to all aspects of project design and management. With an extensive background in architectural detailing, Rebecca is able to fully relate the scale of a room to the pieces placed within it, establishing a cohesive design to the architecture and the interiors of a home.

Rebecca graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991. As salutatorian of her graduating class, she received her Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School Of Fine Arts in 1995. Rebecca is a licensed architect in New York and New Jersey, and her professional affiliations include membership in the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).



Joshua Davis, AIA

Co-founder

Having developed ADA’s institutional business, Joshua is responsible for managing and growing the firm’s base of institutional clients and projects. He has been equally involved in ADA’s high-end residential projects and is immersed in all aspects of the firm’s work, ranging from finely detailed architectural designs to project management, from construction administration to filings, inspections and reports. Prior to co-founding ADA in 1998, Joshua worked at several of New York’s leading architecture firms including Aldo Rossi’s New York Studio di Architettura, Peter Marino Architects, and Michael Davis Architects. Joshua is an adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the New York Institute of Technology, where he has taught since 2003.

Joshua received his Bachelor of Architecture degree with honors from Cornell University, College of Architecture Art & Planning in 1992. A native New Yorker, Joshua is a registered and licensed architect in New York, and his professional affiliations include membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).




Process

We separate our process into five phases: schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding/negotiations, and construction administration. Below is a brief summary of each phase; a more comprehensive description of each phase can be found in The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, by the AIA, published by Wiley.

SCHEMATIC DESIGN

During the first phase, the architect works with the client to determine project objectives, understand design aesthetic, establish schedule and budget constraints, and address issues related to site, such as zoning requirements or jurisdictional restrictions. The architect reviews the client’s program (the required functions for the project) and uses drawings and schematic plans to illustrate designs and layouts that will achieve those objectives. At the end of this phase, a scheme is chosen, and we identify the full team of professionals that may be required to meet the project goals.

How long will my project take?
The architect coordinates a team of professionals, each of whom is responsible for establishing the schedule for his scope of work. Overall start-to-finish schedules vary from project to project and are dependent on factors controlled by the entire team, including the client.

How can I develop a reliable schedule?
A reliable schedule depends on expedient decision making. Drawing sets are built upon layers of approvals that can be extremely costly and time consuming to revise; therefore, the client must maintain a linear approach to selecting and approving items. During construction, even the slightest change can lead to delays because the contractor, not the architect, controls the construction schedule.

How can I speed up the process?
One way to speed up the process is to “fast-track” it by engaging each professional to produce documents on an accelerated schedule, although this will likely result in higher fees. Another way is to hire a construction manager as a builder and engage him directly at the outset of the project. Hiring a construction manager rather than a general contractor provides advantages (facilitating coordination among consultants, keeping budget and design in sync, and eliminating the time consumed by the bidding process) and disadvantages (modifying the venue of competitive pricing), and both should be considered carefully and discussed with the architect to determine which path is right for the client.

How much time does the client need to spend as part of the overall process?
Client involvement varies greatly from project to project. Some clients are hands-on and want to be included in most decisions, while others choose to only be present for key decisions. For most, the involvement falls somewhere in the middle. In our experience, the most successful projects are produced through collaboration between the client and the architect.

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT

During the design development phase, the architect further develops the schematic plan and illustrates additional specificity. Elevations are introduced, floor materials are identified, electrical and lighting locations are established, and design specifications such as tile, stone, appliances, and general finish materials are decided upon.

CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS

This phase focuses on the architect’s technical integration of the specified design and materials into drawings that show the contractor how to build the job. During this phase, the consultants’ information (heating, lighting, audio/visual, etc.) gets integrated into the design, and their drawings are included in the bidding set. At the end of this phase, a full drawing set and specifications booklet is complete, and the project is ready for bidding and review.

BIDDING/NEGOTIATIONS

In this phase, the bidding sets go out to potential contractors for pricing. Once the bids come back, the client and architect evaluate them and select a contractor. If necessary, negotiations regarding price or scope of work will occur before the construction contract is signed. At this time, all permitting and approval will be taken care of.

What is the difference between a general contractor and a construction manager?
There are many factors to consider when selecting the contractual structure that works best for a project, and the architect will be able to evaluate those options with a client.

A general contractor (GC) is a builder who is selected based on a fixed bid price that includes the cost to perform the work, the GC’s fees, and other related costs. This contractual structure can be considered “hard bid contracting.” A client would select a GC if he is interested in competitive bidding. The builder is brought into the project after most of the architect’s documents have been produced, and the GC builds what he has bid. Any changes or modifications are reflected in additional or credit change orders.

A construction manager (CM) is a builder who is selected based on a fee price that is typically a percentage of the construction work. The fee is set prior to the production of the architect’s documents and therefore without regard to the scope and parameters of the project. This contractual structure can be considered “negotiated contracting.” A client would select a CM if he is interested in bringing the builder into the project team early in the process. The CM can collaborate in the project from an early stage and builds the project as the cost of the work plus his fee. Typically, there is an open book policy with the CM where the bid pricing from all the subcontractors is visible, usually three per trade.

How do I select a general contractor?
During the bid process, the architect walks the contractors through the actual space for construction and answers any questions related to the drawings. The architect also receives the final bids from the contractors and acts as a liaison between the client and contractor. The bids are reviewed and the scope of work for the project is determined during this process.

What is value engineering?
Once bid pricing comes back from the contractor, the client can see how job costs are broken down based on actual pricing rather than estimates. At this point, the client can make changes to the proposed work in order to stay within a budget they are comfortable with, and these changes are incorporated into the construction documents.

Can clients buy their own fixtures?
If the client wishes to purchase items for construction, such as lighting or plumbing fixtures, or appliances, it must be worked out with the builder. Typically, the builder purchases all of the items for construction and is therefore responsible for them. If a client purchases items, it is likely the builder will not assume responsibility for them.

We do not recommend that clients purchase items because it can lead to confusion, delayed schedules, and complications in project management. Items can arrive late, damaged, and incomplete, and it is best if it is the builder’s responsibility to contend with complications in procurement.

How do I obtain approvals from New York City cooperative buildings?
Different buildings have different requirements for obtaining an approval for a proposed scope of work, so it is important to check with the building’s management company for any rules and regulations which may be required, including a document called the Alteration Agreement. Through the design and production phases of a project, the architect prepares sets of drawings and specifications which explain all of the elements of a proposed scope of work. These documents, together with any other requirements, are submitted for review by the building’s designated architect or engineer, and after a review process during which explanations and supporting documentation may be requested, the project is typically approved to move forward. However, sometimes clients will need to make changes based on building rules and regulations. While these requirements are typically made apparent at the early stages of design work, in some instances, after the building architect’s review, clients will need to make changes to completed plans that were ready for construction.

How do I obtain approval from New York City Department of Buildings (DOB)?
Following the building review and approval process, documents such as drawings, notes, specifications, and paperwork can be submitted together as a DOB application. There are different application types for different scopes of work (Type I, II, or III), and the process of obtaining approval for an application is complex. We typically work with an expeditor to navigate through the process, and once the DOB has approved an application, the contractor can pull a work permit to begin construction.

How do I obtain approvals in areas other than New York?
In areas other than New York, we engage an architect of record that is familiar with local codes and ordinances.

CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION

Once construction starts, this phase involves weekly site meetings with the construction team to review field conditions, monitor progress, and ensure that the job is being built according to specification. This phase can be very time heavy, as attention to detail is critical. Tile layouts, flooring, lighting, and other elements are reviewed based on actual conditions, which may vary from the drawings. In order for any project to be successful, construction administration is a critical part of an architect’s role and responsibility.

What is the architect’s role during construction administration?
Once construction begins, the architect is an active participant in the successful completion of the built design. We establish a weekly site meeting with the builder and the client to observe the progress and address any issues or questions, and we make additional site visits as needed. We are always “on call” and available to the builder, as his ability to maintain his construction schedule often depends upon timely responses to issues that require immediate attention.

The architect also represents the client and acts as a liaison between the client and contractor when changes need to be made. Changes during construction are often documented by the architect in the form of sketches and by the builder in the form of change orders and in meeting minutes.

What causes a project to change mid-construction?
Changes typically arise from three potential scenarios:

(1) The client initiates a change to something that has been previously approved.

(2) The architect initiates a change based on a different design direction based on field conditions. In this case, the architect brings the issue to the attention of the client because the architect may not make changes with cost implications without the client’s approval.

(3) An unforeseen condition presents an obstacle to completing the project as specified in the approved documents.

A good rule of thumb is to assume there will be changes made during construction that amount to approximately 10% of the overall construction cost. In our experience, even the best planning and attention to detail will not head off all mid-project changes.

Who maintains a record of the construction?
The builder produces meeting minutes and maintains a log of communications and documents.

What is a punch list?
At the point of substantial completion, the architect produces a list of items the builder must complete or fix, as requested by the client. Completion of the items on the punch list determines the completion of the project and identifies when final payments should be made to the builder.

What is substantial completion?
The certificate of substantial completion (AIA G704) specifies a date and time when the owner will take occupancy of a project.

How do warranties work?
The AIA contract between the client and the builder establishes the warranty on the construction, which is typically one year from the date of substantial completion. At the time identified in the contract, the builder presents all project documentation to the client, including instruction manuals, warranties, and documents relating to installed items. Other warranties may be established during contractual negotiations; sometimes contractors offer extended warranty arrangements with clients to help them fix and maintain their properties for years to come.