Airspace development, the process of expanding upwards on existing buildings, typically apartment blocks, to increase their occupancy has emerged as a popular means of tackling housing issues in urban areas.
In the UK, London has seen a huge expansion in airspace projects. With available land on which to develop often in short supply, building upwards and increasing capacity for the same footfall is often the only realistic option.
Importantly, this increased occupancy does not come with a pay off leading to reduced space per tenant. The process does not cram more properties into the same space, it adds new storeys each divided into individual, desirable properties.
Or that, at least is what airspace development should achieve.
However, the need for airspace development and approval of this form of development by both local councils and government green paper has led to a problem.
Not all developments are of the same quality and many developers and builders have attempted to take advantage of the growth in airspace development despite not having the requisite skills of experience.
This concern and a desire for uniform high standards has led to the creation of ARAD – the Association of Rooftop and Airspace Development – an organisation that both comprises leading proponents of this skill and also strives to improve standards across the sector.
ARAD strives to ensure both that any project currently undertaken is of a high standard, but also that future developments learn from the past successes, with innovation to the forefront.
The Requirement For ARAD
ARAD has not emerged from top-down, it is not a government or legislative introduced body for airspace development.
Instead, it is best seen as a union between four of the UK’s leading airspace developers to drive the industry forward.
These four – Upspace, APEX Airspace, Click Above and Fruition Properties – have much in common. They are all experienced in airspace development and have proven track records of delivering superb end builds.
They all work closely with all stakeholders, these including existing tenants to ensure projects run smoothly. They are also all specialists, this ensuring they understand the unique nuances of airspace development and how it differs as opposed to any other form of development.
They also all share a need for this form of development to maintain a reputation for quality, and for this not to be damaged by projects of lesser quality from inexperienced developers. Any council could be put off airspace development as a form of increasing housing stock if they agree to a development that then becomes hugely problematic.
Problems ARAD Can Tackle
Airspace development has specific concerns that require experience to manage successfully.
All members of ARAD are experts in dealing with each of these areas. By pooling knowledge and resources they can create best practice guides and set industry standards.
The resources produced and expertise demonstrated can also help to answer questions and queries from potential stakeholders.
Challenges addressed by ARAD include.
Identifying suitable projects.
Not every building is suitable for airspace development and many projects that run into problems should never have been earmarked for airspace development.
ARAD members can explain why any property is – or is not – a candidate for airspace development. They can work with councils to suggest the best opportunities within any locale.
Building upwards on an existing property is very different from building away from people on an unused plot.
Any building work has an inevitable impact on existing tenants as well as the local community, for instance creating congestion on nearby roads.
ARAD members have collectively given great thought to this topic and devised innovative solutions – these including building much of the project off-site, with finished elements fixed into place rather than built at the property.
Working with partners
For any airspace development to be successful, it has to satisfy all stakeholders.
It must bring benefit to the building owner, it must serve a need for the local community, for instance providing more housing stock.
However, existing tenants must benefit too. A well thought-through development adds value to existing properties and also addresses outstanding maintenance issues, for instance a new roof replaces one that may have required some repairs.
Not only can ARAD members work to the benefit of all, they can also consult with all parties before, during and after the project to maintain harmony and sense of purpose.
Prioritising the long-term
ARAD is helping to create an ethos of long-term benefit over short-term profit.
The quality of the work is demonstrative of this aim, so too the relationship building with local councils, this making future collaborations more likely.
Within ARAD, the work of Upspace is also worth noting – they rent out properties rather than selling them, this ensuring that they maintain an ongoing interest in the property. They only profit if properties are of a standard whereby long-term rental occupancy is assured.
Find out more about ARAD
ARAD has its own website with information about their work, their charter and a members’ area exists with resources.
Full contact details are also provided for those who wish to learn about airspace development and how it can be of benefit.