Why airspace development is the answer to inner city congestion

The London housing crisis is an ever-present concern for those living in the capital. A shortage of affordable housing is slowly but surely forcing all but the most affluent residents further and further out of the city.

As with the basic rule of supply and demand, this dearth of housing only serves to increase its value and residents are forced to pay inflated prices for less than desirable accommodation. According to Trust for London, out of all new homes completed in the city in 2015/16, only 24% were considered to be ‘affordable’, making it increasingly difficult for residents to remain in areas that they know and love.

To find out more about the concerns surrounding the construction of new homes in the capital, airspace developer South Coast Estates ran an independent survey, asking 636 members of the UK public: What concerns you most about the construction of new homes in London?

Here’s how the public responded:

Insufficient developments

The obvious solution to tackling the housing shortage is to simply build more homes, so it was no surprise that the top answer in the survey was ‘There aren’t enough new homes being built’.

London currently has a population of 8.8 million, which makes up 13% of the entire United Kingdom. Not only does this figure show an increase of 16% over the last decade — these figures are also growing at twice the rate of the UK as a whole. This clearly highlights that finding innovative ways to create more housing is now a matter of urgency.

No room to build

The second biggest concern raised in the survey was lack of available space. In a city that is already bursting at the seams it is difficult to imagine where additional housing can physically be built.

In order to meet the huge demand for additional inner city housing, the pressure is on to squeeze developments into any available space. Micro-homes — a term referring to properties less than 37 square metres — have been positioned as a smart-solution to the crisis. However, housing that is comparable in size to two adjoined prison cells — or at best one tube carriage — is clearly far from a ‘solution’ when it comes to creating comfortable living environments. 

Loss of green space

Loss of green space attracted 21.4% of the votes, and was an area of great concern among female respondents. As the city is rapidly resembling a concrete jungle it is imperative that areas of natural greenery are preserved — for aesthetic, environmental and health reasons.

There are numerous benefits to retaining green space, especially in built-up areas:

Environmental

  • Helps regulate air quality and climate
  • Reduces energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces
  • Trees, shrubs and turf remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air

Health and wellbeing

Aesthetic

  • Simply looking at nature can have a positive effect on mood
  • Residents feel pride in their area
  • A visually attractive landscape improves the overall perception of an area

Increased congestion

Worries regarding increased traffic congestion were raised by 16.2% of respondents. However, the arrival of additional residents doesn’t necessarily result in an increased amount of vehicles. According to London’s Economic Plan, 70% of London households do not own a car, as opposed to 25% of households across the rest of the UK. On top of the high costs of motoring, the congestion charge and inflated parking fees mean that owning a car in London is a luxury that many residents cannot justify, especially when the city boasts such a comprehensive and affordable public transport network.

Diluted sense of community

London life can sometimes feel quite impersonal and even unfriendly. As a result, maintaining a sense of community is an important aspect for many London residents. The effect that additional housing may have on the existing community was a worry for 7.5% of respondents, in particular males and those in the 25–34 age group.

A workable solution

There is a solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t involve overcrowding London streets, breaking up communities or taking over inner city green spaces — airspace development. This is an innovative method of construction where additional floors are built on top of existing buildings, enabling a single property to house more residents

Because airspace building goes ‘up’ rather than ‘out’, it doesn’t affect the surrounding area in any way, meaning that communities remain undisturbed. Another great benefit of airspace building is that many aspects of the construction can be carried out offsite. This means that additional floors are either partially or fully built in factories and then transported to the site to be completed, significantly reducing mess and disruption for residents and quickening the time it takes for the housing to be in place.

Community building

Airspace development also works to rejuvenate the building as a whole as opposed to simply focusing on the additional new floors — something that will undoubtedly benefit existing residents as well as newcomers. This overall refurbishment involves modernising communal areas, with hallways and entrances being given a stylish overhaul. Outside spaces are also treated to some much-appreciated attention, with landscaped areas offering further opportunities for communities to congregate.

In contrast to the fears and concerns associated with traditional construction projects, airspace development presents a fresh approach to providing additional accommodation, while maximising urban green spaces and actively reinforcing communities.