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Obtaining planning permission and advantages of having a roof terrace in London

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Adding a rooftop area to a tall building offers an array of benefits to developers, owners and residents. As the number of tall buildings in the UK continues to increase, it is very likely more people will be able to benefit from the extra value that roof terraces add to properties and developments. 

Developers are constantly looking for new ways to get their project to stand out and creating outdoor roof areas and gardens is a popular way of doing that. Horticulture Week recently reported that green roof spaces in London have more than doubled since 2013 and the rest of the country is set to follow suit, especially during these COVID-19 days as outdoor areas pose a lower risk of spread of the virus.

Of course, the biggest motivator for developers to create such spaces is the monetary value they add to a project. A report from estate agent Marsh & Parsons in 2015 suggests that outdoor spaces, including roof terraces, increase the value of a property in London by up to 25%. For architects, the opportunity to make use of unused roof spaces also allows them to add interesting design features to a project and create distinctive showcase spaces.

As the height of buildings increases, so do the potential perks for users. We are seeing many new ways in which people are enjoying the additional value outdoor terrace spaces provide. Real Estate Consulting noted that residents with access to roof top areas enjoy an enhanced lifestyle experience within their home whilst feeling a connection with the outdoors. Residents enjoy the luxury of contained outdoor spaces, either communal or private, in an otherwise bustling urban environment with dense housing and limited privacy in public green spaces. 

In addition, green roofs expand the usefulness of buildings via patios, gardens and vistas.  Planting gardens, both at ground level and in the sky, provide not only great spaces for relaxation and enjoyment, but also are great to look at!

4D Planning have also been flooded with enquiries for roof terraces over the Covid-19 period, mainly from home owners of flats in central London who would like to explore the opportunity to convert their flat roofs into habitable roof terrace spaces. With many applications being granted, this is definitely a positive development which enhances the quality of people's lives and of their accomodation.

Here are some tips to maximise outdoor spaces at your property:

1. Flora

A well-integrated planting scheme enhances a roof terrace panorama abundant in famous city landmarks, but, when the view is lacklustre, obscured by dense surroundings, its natural verdancy redefines this setting immeasurably. Whether culinary, wildlife friendly, Mediterranean, subtropical, or eclectically ornamental, the floras we utilise benefit roof terrace gardens. To boot, you also create a habitat for wildlife.


An ideal view defines one of the most personal aspects for avid roof terrace punters, and at times forms the top prospect in a resurgent sky-scraping sprawl nowadays welcomed with unprecedented high-rise developments forming in and around the River Thames. London's skyline offers ever more tantalising views with each new architectonic city cluster.

3. Setting

Roof terrace magnetism allures Londoners in their droves with bird's-eye perspectives and liberating spatial autonomy, where the capital's emergent roofscapes unveil iconic landmarks, breath-taking views and spectacular sunsets – nestled within a gripping matrix of memorable, familiar settings. The roof terrace ideas which nurture these aspirational skyward settings evolve through indispensable experimentation, architectural design and a profound connection to London's historic fabric.

4. Seating

Devising the most apt format for roof terrace seating zones forms a somewhat tricky design conundrum, when windswept environments, or myriads of onlooking crowds and lack of easy shelter necessitate durable, functional solutions. Rooftop seating ideas normally revolve around inherent valuable vistas which one aims to preserve. Other factors to consider are Intense sunbeams, incessant noise, relentless pollution and rainfall.

5. Lighting

Outdoor lighting forms one of the most rewarding, functional and aesthetically pleasing aspects of a well-designed garden landscape and likewise in a roof terrace, enveloped panoramically by city lights, its role is amplified immensely. London's diverse architectural milieu, through its eclectic multi-layered scale, gives the opportunity to produce energising roof terrace concepts. Each sightline, vista, cavity and sculptural tree trunk opens up a whole new lighting idea box.

6. Landscaped Rooftops

Contemporary rooftop culture, across its varied scales, preserves the idea of an effortless lifestyle, augmented by self-watering systems and clean-lined conceptualised layouts amid alluring panoramas – inextricably linked to lesser maintenance and maximum exuberance. The derivation of such fantastical terrace ideas originates to Kensington Roof Gardens, above Derry & Toms department store in the 1930's. An urban, high-altitude roof terrace, with its commanding views and sense of refuge, instils perceptions of capability and metropolitan grasp, immersed in robust optimism within paramount verdancy.

7. Alternative Energy / Green Roofs

There is a perception that a building can either have green roofs or solar production at roof level but not both. However, it is possible to take a more pluralistic approach and use both technologies in tandem. In fact, there is substantial evidence from Germany that the use of both solar/photovoltaics and green roofs provides dual benefits in terms of energy production and energy saved and reduces ambient temperature. It also produces oxygen and converts CO2 emissions.

Solar/Photovoltaic (PV) A-Frame panels at roof level are known to work more efficiently when installed on a green roof rather than a on a conventional surface. The green roof element not only saves energy during the summer time (see above) but can also increase efficiency of PV by reducing fluctuation of temperatures at roof level and by maintaining a more efficient microclimate around the PV Panels. Crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels, as a rule of thumb, lose 0.5 per cent/°C in efficiency above 25°C. The green roof serves as a natural cooling mechanism, thereby maintaining the panels’ efficiency and reducing energy costs in the process.

8. Surfaces

The range of materials utilised to surface a roof terrace is vast, and while implemented predominantly within suspended systems, it is possible to make good use of its integral capacity to conceal the bare bones of rooftop frameworks. With inbuilt roof drainage slopes, you can construct perfectly levelled surfaces, assembled onto adjustable pedestals, and present fluid indoor-outdoor sequences – augmented by load-bearing suitability, alongside free draining functionality. It is a good idea to integrate an abundance of natural stones, including basalt, granite and sandstone, as well as porcelain and concrete pavers, for their adaptability, durability and strength, while logistically conducive to easy hauling onto roof terrace locations via conventional methods.

When specifying wood materials, deck components or artificial grass, particularly in oversized lengths, a furniture lift is typically required to transport items up to seventh floor height, and a mobile crane for greater elevations.

9. Landscape

London is firmly en-route for a blanket, silhouetted horizon comprising fragmented, glazed clusters of greenless steel cages. In the interim, property developers rise to presidencies, and scrape away at will bits of valued sky – overshadowing vital ecologies and their heritage.

Heatherwick Studio's Garden Bridge had hoped to be London's most spectacular, environmental roof garden in the heart of River Thames, but as so many rooftop constructions prove to be, this project was scrapped, since estimated costs quadrupled over the course of two years. Purposefully designed, efficient roof terrace projects endorse green terrace design ideas, individual well-being and architectural integration proactively, and should continue to define, and reinvent, urban biodiversity.

10. Water Management

Finally, in locations where there is significant rainfall, such as London, properly designed green roofs help to capture and harvest rainwater and reduce storm water runoff and discharge.

Rooftop rain water harvesting is the technique through which rain water is captured from the roof catchments and stored in reservoirs. Harvested rain water can be stored in sub-surface ground water reservoir by adopting artificial recharge techniques to meet household/building needs through storage in tanks. The main objective of rooftop rain water harvesting is to make water available for future use. Capturing and storing rain water for use is particularly important in dryland, hilly, urban and coastal areas. Again, this will result in energy saving.


For any advice or if you would like to explore converting your flat roof into a roof terrace, please contact 4D Planning on (+44) 0203 1500 183 or enquiries@4dplanning.com


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