For anyone living in a building where airspace development is a possible mode of expansion, a likely concern will be whether the work will be carried out to a high standard.
A poorly planned or executed airspace development could impact on the aesthetic appeal of the property. Potentially, poor quality workmanship could lead to ongoing maintenance issues and reduce the value of existing properties.
Is this concern justified? Is airspace development carried out to high standards and, if this is the case, how are such standards guaranteed.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to give an answer that covers all developments.
Just as it is impossible to state whether all home extensions or new build properties are designed and built to the highest standards, so too it is impossible to pass overall judgement on the quality of all airspace developments.
A more focused question is how to ensure that airspace development on your property is undertaken to the highest of standards.
There are, in our opinion, two key areas to consider. Although we are Airspace Developers who focus on properties in London and the south of England, this is advice that is pertinent to developments anywhere in the UK, or globally.
Level of Experience
A first consideration is whether the developers in question are experienced airspace developers.
In major cities where there is a housing shortage coupled with a lack of available land; building upwards on existing properties is an increasingly popular form of development. In the UK, airspace development has been mentioned in Government papers as being a key factor in expanding the housing stock in cities.
Inevitably, an increased focus on airspace development has encouraged many standard developers and builders to seek to work on such projects.
However, choosing non-specialist developers vastly increases the likelihood of problems being encountered.
A specialist airspace developer is used to every aspect of the work. They can accurately identify buildings that would be suitable for this form of development and, just as importantly, foresee any problems that make a building a poor candidate for airspace development.
The experienced, specialist developer is used to working with local authorities to ensure that plans meet with approval. They have a settled and proven way of working that ensures the development goes ahead with minimal upheaval to existing residents.
The specialist developer also has their reputation to think of, if all they do is airspace development then it is imperative that each project is carried out to the highest of standards. For a standard building company, it might be one job among many, their business is not solely reliant on airspace development projects.
Proven Track Record
The specialist developer will have a track record of completing projects – it should be possible to see testimonials and even see their buildings to get a sense for the completed work. Diligence could be achieved by researching property asking prices before and after the work, thus checking that the development was of overall value to existing leaseholders.
If the company undertaking airspace development get it wrong, the impact can be profound. In an upcoming blog post, we will focus on examples of airspace development gone wrong, problems including issues of water penetration, work of a poor quality that requires almost-immediate remedial work and poor planning processes that lead to tribunals and complaints.
We would advise only considering experienced airspace developers with a track record of working on buildings with similarities to yours. Testimonials could then be sought from residents of those projects, how was the experience, was there much upheaval and what are their reflections post completion of the work. Has it been beneficial?
Experienced airspace developers also know how to sequence each individual development, the order in which to carry out processes and who to involve at each stage. Importantly, and unlike more traditional developments, this order will change on a project-by-project basis.
The second key consideration is to factor in the developer’s exit strategy. How do they intend to profit, is it by selling the new properties or is it by renting them out?
Neither is worrying of itself, but the choice does have potential implications as to how they regard the work.
A developer whose strategy is to build and then sell the properties does not have a long term commitment. Their profit is made by selling the units, after which their interest is elsewhere – they are likely to only return to carry out remedial work or minor repairs if they are forced to through contractual obligations.
That is not to suggest the quality of work will be poor, it may well fully match the initial specifications. However, it does mean that post completion and sale the property is no longer a priority for them, in fact having to return is problematic, it is an extra expense. On every aspect of the build, when this approach is followed, minimising costs leads to increased profit, cutting corners is financially beneficial.
The alternate strategy, and the one we employ, is to let the new properties. With this approach, we take a long-term approach when it comes to profiting from the new dwellings. This all translates into the build being of the highest quality as longevity and durability is a very important factor. In addition we endeavour to renovate the externals/internals of a building to a high standard because our tenants will be making use of the space.
About Upspace – Specialist Airspace Developers in London
At Upspace, we are specialist airspace developers who develop long-term relationships with freeholders and leaseholders.
We undertake much of the build off site to reduce disruption. The exact figure will vary, but we are able to carry out up to 80% of the work off-site – typically prefabricated dormers, timber I-beams, chimneys, plumbing systems and more (for further details please see our FAQs).
If you would like further information or to discuss the potential suitability of your property, please get in touch.
What Is Airspace Development?
Airspace Development is the practice of building upwards on top of existing properties, thus creating extra housing capacity but without increasing the footprint of the building.
In cities, this form of development is increasingly popular as it helps to tackle shortages of accommodation in areas where there is no easily accessible land on which to build new plots.
The need for this form of development is clear – in London alone it is estimated there could be a deficit of 559,000 homes by 2021. Traditional development methods have failed to build more than 200,00 new homes in any recent decade.
To find out more about airspace development, please read our comprehensive guide.