Did you know that in London when buying a typical house or flat, 70% of the cost is for the land it’s built on?
The primary cost in buying or renting a home is not the home itself, but premium on suitable urban land. Each year, London delivers approximately half the number of homes it needs. We need to not only meet, but reverse, the shortfall to accommodate the city’s growing population, which is set to exceed 10 million by 2030.
Build Upwards, Not Outwards
Skyroom, an award-winning technology, design and development company, set out to solve this problem. Skyroom originates, designs, and delivers homes in the airspace above existing buildings. The company has identified a way for housing providers and other major landowners to grow their portfolio without acquiring ‘new’ land.
Thousands of acres of underused real estate exist within our cities: in the airspace above existing buildings. Knowing this, Skyroom helps major landowners to maximise the economic, social, and environmental value of their portfolio. They do it by originating, designing, and delivering airspace developments. Offering their design expertise to identify buildings suitable for airspace development, Skyroom creates an opportunity-ranking of buildings within landowners’ portfolios.
At the start of the pandemic, the significance of keyworkers in the healthy functioning of cities came to be widely recognised, where previously their work was undervalued. ‘Rise Up’, originally authored with Richard Rogers in 2018 (UCL) called for landowners to use the airspace above their existing buildings to provide sustainable, beautiful, affordable homes to key workers. Republished in March 2020, the white paper rallies the collective sense of urgency to permanently improve the lives of key workers using an impactful, feasible solution.
For Local Authorities, airspace development presents the opportunity to make substantial inroads into housing delivery targets, while reducing the environmental impact linked to traditional ground-up housing delivery. Skyroom aims to have provided 10,000 homes in the airspace above existing buildings by 2030, in partnership with London’s major landlords.
Two Boroughs selected for £100 million Key Worker Homes Fund
The £100 million ESG Fund, ‘The Key Workers Home Fund’, was launched by Skyroom in March 2021 to accelerate the delivery of affordable homes for keyworkers using sites already in the ownership of London’s major landowners. The Fund offered London’s Local Authorities and Housing Associations technical expertise and capital to deliver airspace developments above buildings in their portfolio. Over 40 sites were nominated by Housing Associations and Local Authorities to provide key workers with accommodation closer to where the work.
Skyroom recently announced the two London Boroughs —Lambeth and Waltham Forest —successful in applying to the £100 million Key Worker Homes Fund.
Early-stage designs indicate that over 111 new homes could be delivered across the two sites, 50% of which would be affordable and allocated to key workers as a priority group. The proposed airspace developments fast-track essential maintenance works, including retrofit measures, allowing the building owners to re-invest the savings back into housing delivery.
Skyroom is now working in partnership with each Local Authority with the view to submit outline planning permission later in the year. The Fund reserves capital to co-invest in construction and development.
Use of OS Data
Skyroom uses geospatial mapping to identify new opportunities to develop new homes. Using OS addressing and features data, Skyroom optimised their site identification and surveying technology to accelerate this process. With more accurate data and modelling, research found that over 10% of buildings across inner London are suitable for Skyroom’s airspace development process.
Geovation Accelerator Programme
Skyroom joined 7th cohort of the Geovation Accelerator Programme on the PropTech track in October 2018, where they benefitted from 6 months of intensive support including workshops, 1-1 help, funding and much more to fast-track their growth.
In this early period, Skyroom started the design of an airspace development in Southwark, London, which gained planning permission in November 2020. Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry and Innovate UK awarded funding for the development of Skyroom’s proprietary technologies. Skyroom assembled an advisory board of leaders across industry, policy and academia. It also started servicing London’s major landlords with mapping, feasibility, and development management services.
Now, Skyroom is a trusted partner to public and private sector organisations, including FTSE 100 companies, Housing Associations, Local Authorities and NHS Trusts.
Find out more about Skyroom’s approach or services here.