Looking up for sustainable development

19th December 2022

Airspace Development

It is common knowledge that reusing, refurbishing, and extending existing buildings for longer life is a much more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build.

It is common knowledge that reusing, refurbishing, and extending existing buildings for longer life is a much more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build. But it is also more cost effective, quicker, and an inherently sustainable means of delivering much needed new housing, all without consuming open space. Intensifying and improving the performance of existing housing as a resource also has a direct benefit in terms of reducing the Whole Life Carbon* emissions of homes already built.

Airspace development can do this and more. Such development refers to the creation of new homes in the ‘air-rights’ on top of existing buildings, by usually one or two additional storeys, and as the construction and property industry look to ways of delivering new housing more sustainably Fruition Properties believe airspace development has a key role to play.

Airspace development not only reduces the quantity of new materials used but removes the need for new groundworks and foundations which in a small to medium scale housing development typically account for 21% of embodied carbon emissions** during construction. In a city such as London, with older housing stock, it also provides an opportunity to upgrade existing buildings with better insulation and more efficient and sustainable heating systems, increasingly important with today’s rising cost of energy. Together with improvements to fire safety through provision of dry risers, emergency lighting, and new fire-resistant doors, there are many benefits to leaseholders and tenants as well as just the increased energy efficiency.

Airspace development also utilises the infrastructure, road, utility connections and drainage of the existing building therefore reducing pressure on open land which can be retained for public benefit.

How airspace is delivered also plays a part in its sustainability credentials. For example, in our upcoming airspace development at 20 Crimscott Street, Bermondsey, we plan to use LGS (Lightweight Gauge Steel) as it is mostly made from recycled steel and is fully manufactured in the UK which minimises transport. By using prefabricated light steel and modular components, site waste is virtually eliminated compared to the industry average wastage of 10% in construction materials. We can also reduce the embodied carbon in the building fabric by up to 20% when using light steel framing and importantly these can be modified and extended easily, future proofing their use.

We routinely use a variety of alternative energy provisions for airspace developments such as photovoltaic panels, air or ground source heat pumps and if the site has existing parking provision, we will install EUV charge points and increase the sustainable transport provision with additional secure cycle storage.

These are just a few of the innovative solutions and ways we deliver airspace development. By not demolishing existing structures and by building upwards, we can save considerably on the carbon footprint and help freeholders and leaseholders upgrade their properties whilst mitigating their environmental impact which will all help solve London’s housing crisis in a truly sustainable way.

*Whole Life Carbon is comprised of operational carbon emissions, produced by the building in use, and embodied carbon, used upfront in the construction of the building.
**(LETI Climate Emergency Design Guide)

This article first appeared in BE News.