All posts in Real Estate

Up on the Roof

In a time of vertical living and vertical cities, the only way forward for real estate is up. The proposed 1996 Iconic Tower – which will become the country’s tallest tower – is just another sign of skyscrapers dominating the Colombo skyline. As horizontal space becomes scarce, these high-rise buildings offer the perfect solution for the rising real estate needs of a city.

On top of these high-rises lie what’s often known as “underutilized urban space”; the rooftops. Mostly popular for bars with spectacular views of the city and sea in Sri Lanka, rooftops are not only known for their pretty views in the global real estate landscape.

Rooftop dining and drinking; not so new to Sri Lanka

Restaurants and bars have been established uses of rooftop spaces in Sri Lanka. More recently, OZO Colombo, Sky Lounge, and Cinnamon Red brought new appeal for such developments with their bars and lounges which offer picturesque city views and breathtaking sunsets. It would not be surprising to see rooftop dining promising of dazzling views emerge as a common feature in upcoming real estate developments in the hospitality sector.

To live among the clouds

Living in rooftop apartments, on the other hand, is not a concept embraced much by the Sri Lankans. May it be low cost apartments in affordable residential units or luxury residential roof decks; Sri Lanka’s real estate landscape is yet to foray fully into this territory.

Rooftop apartments offer affordable residential spaces in the West as well as in some Asian countries. These are particularly small units with only 2-3 rooms and a small kitchen attached to a dining area, with a roof deck overlooking the city (may or may not be as glamorous as what’s offered in luxury developments). In Hong Kong, one of most densely populated cities in the world, the rooftop residential usage has extended so much that some buildings have become home to [illegal] “rooftop slums”, also known as “penthouse slums”. This is a result of thousands of dwellers who can’t afford living spaces elsewhere finding rooftops to be their only housing option.

On the other end of the continuum lie the luxury rooftop penthouses. Rooftops offer the allure of living in the urban areas yet away from busy streets and the noise, with a perfect view of the surroundings. As such, rooftop penthouses carry their own unique charms compared to other penthouses in general. If not a penthouse, rooftop terraces or roof decks are a common amenity to luxury residential units. These are also known as “communal rooftops” which offer an “outdoor experience” to the tenants of luxury condo buildings. The Sky Garden in the proposed Altair residential and commercial project promises a similar experience. Hence, could be an added feature in upcoming luxury developments in Sri Lanka.

Chicago Roof Deck is a US company specializing in developing residential apartments and commercial projects in unused roof spaces (check out their website here). Existence of such specialized real estate developers is further proof of the allure of rooftop spaces for living.

Take your work to the rooftop

Particularly in the West, a new trend in office buildings is to use the rooftop as an “outdoor space” to provide employees with a place to “get away”, and take a break from work. As such, the rooftop is referred to as an “extension of the office”. These spaces are landscaped as relaxing outdoor areas and often include a small play area (foosball, ping pong games etc.) and/or a garden.

A tourist charm

Observatories placed in the rooftops of skyscrapers are great tourist attractions. Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Sky Park is one of the best and well known examples. Colombo, with its scenic sunsets and city views has great potential in tapping this market.

An interesting development around rooftops of high-rise buildings is the photographic movement called “Rooftopping”; works of urban explorers or adventure seekers climbing to the top of skyscrapers to capture the spectacular view beneath them. (Ontheroofs is a similar project carried out by two photographers from Ukraine and Russia. Check out the pictures and videos on their website here). This works as one of the charms of urban rooftops.

A Green Skyline

As horizontal space is increasingly taken up by varied real estate developments, the other problem the world is faced with is the fate of the greenery. Rooftops have provided the perfect solution. As part of the “Green” concept, some developers use rooftops for urban farming or gardening. This practice is quite popular in Asia as well as in the West.

A 10,000-square-meter farm sits on top of a factory manufacturing doors in Chongqing, Southwest China. In New York, Brooklyn Grange operates the world’s largest rooftop soil farms located on two roofs in New York City (check out their website here). Even more famous is London’s Sky Garden. The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street offers a delightfully unique experience of an “exquisitely landscaped” garden housing exotic foliage and 3 restaurants which provide dining experience among the greenery (link to website here).

The use of rooftop spaces in real estate is an evolving concept, with new and exotic benefits emerging from time to time. It won’t be too long till we see some of the developments seen globally here in Sri Lanka as well!