Airspace developments have become more common in London in the past decade. However, it’s still a relatively new sector of property development, and it’s one that calls for specialist knowledge and expertise.
Rooftop development is not the same as ground-up development. In order to effectively deliver new homes, there are more pitfalls to overcome, including the legal aspects, fire safety considerations, and resident engagement through to the actual build itself.
If you’re embarking on an airspace development project, it’s vitally important to choose the right contractors for the job. The costs of getting it wrong can be serious, as we’ll see from the story below.
Upspace are award-winning airspace experts – Get in touch.
Roof removal and property damage
Mail Online recently reported a cautionary tale of the damage that can be caused when rooftop construction is undertaken without an airspace specialist such as Upspace leading the way.
In 2016, Kate Morris purchased a top-floor flat in a two-story block of six leasehold flats in Ashford, Surrey for £275,000. The freehold to the property had been purchased two years earlier by an independent company; it came with planning permission for two flats to be constructed on the rooftop.
According to Kate, problems began in May 2022 when builders arrived to start work on constructing two new rooftop flats. They removed the roof of the building, leaving the ceiling of Kate’s top-floor flat exposed, she says.
Kate told MailOnline: “Once they removed the roof of the building, my ceiling had no protection because it wasn’t waterproofed properly.
In August 2022, days of torrential rain caused severe flooding as water poured into the flat through light fittings in the ceiling. Kate says she and her son were forced to leave the flat.
Kate shared some pictures of the damage caused to her flat and to her neighbour’s flat, with MailOnline.
Legal battle for compensation
Kate and some of her neighbours became locked in a legal battle with their freeholder, as they attempted to recover around £100,000 for repairs and compensation.
The residents claim that they had little control over how the work was carried out and that their pleas that it was not being done safely went unheard.
They says they were also informed that the insurance for their building and personal possessions is null and void because the damage had been caused by negligence.
“The situation continues to cause anxiety and stress and we cannot see an end in sight,” Kate’s neighbour Laura told Mail Online.
We take the worry out of roof replacement
Replacing the roof is a standard part of airspace development – indeed, it is normally one of the benefits to the existing residents. In all our developments, we provide a new roof with a 20-year guarantee. This extends the life of the property and can save each resident several thousands of pounds on the cost of replacing the roof themselves.
Upspace is different from most airspace developers in that we retain the new units for the private rental market. This means we retain a stake in the building and take a long-term view over the development. Cutting corners for profit is never on our agenda.
We have more ready-to-go projects than any other airspace developer in London, and the Mail Online story is a world away from what you can expect working with us. None of our residents have experienced any significant problems during our builds.
By way of comparison, the worst residents may experience on our developments would be minor cracking in corners of ceilings, where the ceilings have deflected upwards due to the removal of a heavy roof. Our contractors renovate damage like this swiftly and professionally.
We work closely with all our residents
Upspace are committed to being as open and transparent with existing residents as possible. We will hold regular meetings to keep them in the loop and deal with any problems that have cropped up promptly and professionally.
Before work commences, we invest a lot of time in creating a construction plan that will be as convenient to existing residents as possible. This includes designing the scaffolding to allow for points of entry and windows not to be blocked.
Always putting safety first
We take the quality of our builds incredibly seriously. We will always ensure your building meets and where possible exceeds all building regulations – it’s in our interest as well.
The starting point for all our projects is safety, which is assessed at the earliest stage of the project. A structural engineer will undertake a thorough assessment of your building to ensure it is safe to undertake work at the earliest point of the project.
If your building does not have the structural integrity to make it suitable for an extra storey it would not be proposed for airspace development.
Protecting your investment
On completion of all our projects, a raft of compliance documentation will be available including a 12-year professional Insurance indemnity provided by the architects against the safe use of the building by occupants.
What is more, all consultants involved in the project will hold high levels of Professional Indemnity insurance which enables them to execute their duties in a professional manner.
Our safeguards with contractors
When we work with contractors on airspace development, you can be assured that:
- Every contractor we use has previous airspace experience.
- All are vetted by other ARAD founders and members to weed out any who have caused concerns on previous projects.
Additionally, we like to make sure our contract is never the biggest that a contractor has in terms of value; we usually aim for ours to be around the average size.
The benefit here is that they’ll more likely be professional contractors whose profit margin is not largely dependent on our developments. Hence, they will not look to cut corners to make most of their profit with us.
Roof drama: The freeholder’s response
The freeholder in the Mail Online article claims that Kate’s home only suffered £5,000 worth of damage while Laura’s was estimated at £500.
They say they have offered to carry out repairs to this amount as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ but deny that they are responsible for the damage, claiming that it was caused by the scaffolders, who did not make the top of the building watertight.
If you are involved in an airspace development in any way, read on for our professional advice for how it can run safely and successfully for everyone.
We believe that airspace is the future of property development in London. The evolution of the industry in the right direction calls for informed, engaged residents and professional developers and contractors who have experience in rooftop construction.
Three ways to protect residents and property
Whether you’re a freeholder or a leaseholder, if you’re part of an airspace development in any way, here are three basic steps to take that will help prevent it from going the way of the Mail Online story above.
Use a trusted airspace developer
The best way of ensuring that your airspace development project runs as safely and smoothly as possible is to use a trusted airspace developer. You should also ensure that contractors have airspace development experience, or are being overseen by a developer who has.
Upspace has a proven record of excellence within the rooftop construction industry, with more ready-to-go airspace projects than any other developer in London.
We are award-winning developers and co-founders of the airspace development industry body ARAD.
Check if they’re an ARAD member
In 2020, the Association of Rooftop and Airspace Development (ARAD) was established by leading developers to promote good practices and innovation within the UK’s airspace industry.
Upspace is one of the founder members of ARAD. ARAD occupies a key position within the airspace sector having been directly involved with the 2020 Permitted Development for Upwards Extensions.
You can check if a developer or stakeholder is a member of ARAD here.
Adhere to the airspace development code of conduct
ARAD promotes quality of service by setting standards, and it has established a Code of Conduct for its members. Professional airspace developers should adhere to this code, which includes points such as:
- Act in a transparent and straightforward manner with stakeholders.
- Put health and safety at the forefront of any development, minimise disruption to existing occupiers and communicate regularly and clearly with them.
- Work within legal and ethical guidelines.
- Respect the local community and minimise the impact on neighbours and the general public.
- Have the appropriate insurance in place and that all contractors working on site are covered for their own safety and also cover the development if there are future problems
The Mail Online’s story reads like a case study of what can go wrong when guidelines like these aren’t followed – with significant consequences for existing residents, as is all too often the case.
Leaseholders may not always have a say about which developers or contractors are used in a project; however, where they do, it is vital to take the opportunity to ensure that experienced airspace professionals are involved.
Ready to Work with Upspace?
If you’d like to find out more about working with Upspace, please get in touch using the contact details below. You can read more about the client journey with Upspace, and see our FAQs for more information about developing rooftops.
We’re happy to answer any questions as well as dispel any myths about airspace development. It’s a new industry and getting the right information from the right sources is key.
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you take the next step towards creating high-quality and innovative housing in London with airspace development.
PO Box 1334