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How Building Upwards Could Be a Solution to the Housing Crisis

International property consultancy Knight Frank has concluded that at least 41,000 new homes could be built in central London without changing the city’s celebrated skyline. 

Using geospatial mapping software, the study found that over 28 million square feet of additional residential area could potentially be developed by building upwards or converting existing loft spaces. This added loft conversion space had a potential value of £51 billion.  

The project was initiated after the UK Government announced in its 2017 Housing White Paper that it was looking ways to build on ‘airspace’ above existing buildings. 

The goal of the research project was to seek opportunities for additional housing in urban locations, especially in places where the buildings could be extended upwards. Knight Frank developed a system of analysing each building’s potential and called it ‘SKYWARD’. This program examined 3D spatial data collected from the Ordnance Survey, cross-referencing Historic England data to eliminate listed buildings and Land Registry information to evaluate ownerships. 

The study concluded that around 23,000 buildings in Zones 1 and 2 were viable for loft conversions. Volume-wise, the unused plots in the same area equalled eight Burj Khalifa towers (which stands 830 metres high) without affecting the London skyline. 

Charles Dugdale, Knight Frank Residential Development partner, said that Skyward was a potent tool for identifying additional development opportunities and making more homes available, especially in those areas where land availability is minimal. It can also add an objective aspect to planning decisions. 


Download CRL free Guide to Loft Conversions


Ian McGuinness, Knight Frank Geospatial head, commented that the 3D mapping technology made it easier to spot where the opportunities were, how much value they reveal, and which landowners are in the best position to spearhead the transformation. 

Skyward first defines continual blocks by their maximum height, then excludes unsuitable ones before extruding the remaining structures up to the maximum height. Only buildings that can be extended by at least three metres are treated as potential Skyward developments. 

Developer Click Above is in the midst of loft conversion projects that include 23 studios and two-bedroom flats built above a commercial site in Camden and two penthouses being added to the top of a block in Battersea. These properties are built off-site, meaning that they can be installed in a matter of days with little disruption. 

Click Above chief executive Aaron Emmett said that residents of UK cities have little notion how much money they could be sitting on. The opportunity for building skyward is huge.  

Apartment owners may be concerned about more housing being constructed on top of their block, but if their freeholder is selling the rooftop space, it has to serve a section five notice that provides leaseholders with the opportunity to buy it before a third party can. 

According to Click Above, leaseholders can realise benefits when their roof space is sold. These may include refurbishment of communal areas and addition of new facilities as well as an improved building appearance, new landscaping, and a new rooftop that leaseholders won’t have to pay for. 

For more information on loft conversions check out the CRL FREE Guide to Loft Conversions.

Specialists in Construction Insurance


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