The Times talks to Håkan Olsson

Excerpt from The Times:

‘The sky’s the limit for imaginative developer’ by Carol Lewis


‘Hakan Olsson, the technical director and co-founder of First Penthouse, a luxury modular rooftop builder, agrees: “The major reason this hasn’t taken off is planning constraints, but there is also a lack of imagination from local councils. If planning was relaxed we could build maybe 10,000 flats on London’s rooftops in the next five years. Many could be affordable if councils allowed building on their roofs. In Westminster alone I think you could build 1,000.”

Olsson is working on a project in Fulham in which 50 apartments are being built on top of a block of flats. The residents’ association that owns the freehold will use the revenues from the sales of the properties to refurbish its building. “Next door the council has two blocks where we could build 20 more flats. We could do so much more if councils had the imagination and will,” he says. Olsson adds that permitted development rights — planning permission granted by the government if certain requirements are fulfilled, therefore bypassing local council planning processes, such as that offered for the conversion of office buildings to residential — could be used to encourage more building upwards.

However, he says that not all flat roofs are suitable for building, with fire and safety regulations often a deciding factor.

First Penthouse, like many companies in the sector, builds its apartments in a factory. A luxury 4,000 sq ft penthouse will take three to five months to build and will include completed bathrooms, kitchens, electrics and decoration. This is then lifted into place on a roof by crane in a day and after one to four weeks finishing on site, it is ready to move in to.

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