25 March 2022

Two storey extensions to tackle UK’s housing crisis

Extending buildings upwards could help to tackle the UK’s housing crisis and meet net-zero commitments, according to new research from the University of Sheffield, UK.

© Benjamin Elliott/Unsplash

The study has revealed how the strategy could provide an extra 175,000 homes in one city alone – a plan that could be rolled out across the country to help bring down house prices, reduce carbon emissions and meet government housing targets.

With house prices rising to a record high during the pandemic and the demand for housing growing rapidly, the government has increased housing targets for England’s 20 biggest cities by 35%. This is to try and reduce the UK’s current shortage of almost five million homes.

In Sheffield, the 35% uplift has increased housing targets to 55,000 homes, with the local council planning to create 20,000 of these within the city centre. They hope that this will meet housing demand while boosting high street trade and supporting city centre businesses. A similar strategy is being considered by city councils across the UK.

The study from analysed building data from a geographic information system. It was found that vertically extending suitable premises by just one or two storeys could provide 175,000 new homes in Sheffield alone.

Extending buildings vertically would help to cut carbon emissions as more buildings would be redeveloped, rather than demolished and replaced with new ones. Vertical extensions could also reduce the number of new homes needed to be built on precious greenspace in cities and the countryside. This could ensure people are able to live close to key services and amenities – reducing reliance on cars.

In 2020, the government introduced new legislation to allow the addition of up to two storeys to existing houses, blocks of flats and commercial buildings without the need for formal planning permission. They predicted this would generate 9,000 new homes a year, but the University of Sheffield study claims that less than 200 new homes have been delivered through this scheme to date.

Charles Gillott, a Grantham Scholar from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, says, ‘Adding new homes above existing buildings offers an opportunity to rejuvenate city centres whilst meeting net zero targets and the growing demand for housing. This will help to create low-carbon, mixed-use cities where people live close to the services and amenities they rely on. Whilst many buildings are unsuitable, and effort must be made to ensure the quality of the homes delivered, this study highlights the potential for residential vertical extension at scale.’