Rise Up: The case for, and advantages of, providing homes for key workers in the airspace above existing buildings

8th August 2021

Technology and urban development company, Skyroom, delivers precision-manufactured homes in the airspace above existing buildings. In their white paper, Rise Up, published by UCL and with a foreword by Lord Richard Rogers, Skyroom sets out the opportunity of building up, not out, in cities like London, and makes the case for prioritising new homes to key workers.


Skyroom is calling for change in the way we value our key workers and view the city. This is an opportunity for London to lead the way in providing affordable, sustainable, beautiful homes near to where they work, so that key workers have the opportunity to thrive in the city they support.

We are at a critical point in London’s evolution. Rapid increases in population have placed enormous pressures on the city’s social, physical and economic infrastructure. Housing is in short supply, leading to prices which only the better-off and wealthy can afford.

Key workers find themselves priced out of the areas where they work and forced to make lengthy commutes— a drain not just on their income, but on their health, well-being, and quality of life. The people who support the city, who keep its citizens healthy, happy, educated and safe, find themselves disconnected from their own communities without the energy or time to spend with family and friends.

There is a way to provide key worker housing in the areas where their skills are needed most. London’s rooftops are a valuable untapped resource. With vision and ingenuity—and with collaboration between the public and private sectors—we can unlock their potential to provide space for thousands of new homes. By taking the crippling cost of land out of the equation, it is possible to build new housing at a price which is affordable to develop and affordable to live in on a key worker’s salary.

This calls for a strategic change in the way we view the development potential of the city: a shift in mindset whereby private landlords, housing associations and public-sector organisations learn to look upwards and to assess the assets which have been hiding in plain sight. Many of these potential sites are small, suggesting a series of incremental development projects, each of which are appropriate to their context and proportionate to their immediate neighbourhood. Each project may be modest, but the cumulative impact could be huge. Cities across the world are facing the same challenge. This is an opportunity for London to lead the way and pioneer an attitude which could help to make our cities fit for purpose, not just for the current population but for generations to come.

This article was selected from the CGLN news network.
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