How to optimise your roof space and create a rooftop terrace

How to optimise your roof space and create a rooftop terrace

In high-density cities, it might not always be easy to find an outdoor space just for yourself, an easily accessible spot that's away from the city’s noise and banter. If you have a flat under-utilised roof, look no further - you may be able to tap into all of its potential by converting it into a liveable roof space instead!

Being multifunctional, a flat roof could act as an extension of your home and will add benefits to your living conditions. You can choose the perfect function for your roof space based on your lifestyle, your hobbies and requirements, and convert this into your personal outdoor pod away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

There are a lot of options when it comes to designing your perfect roof terrace. You could opt for a lounge space with a backrest of planters, a barbecue area, a custom-built outdoor kitchen, or you could even choose to have a fireplace with outdoor seating! Engaging an architect can be a good idea for getting help with various elements of the roof terrace, such as the access to your space, the lighting, electric points, water connections, plants and furniture.

A few other elements you could add to your roof terrace space are lounge sofas, planters, pergola shades, an outdoor kitchen, a pizza oven, a bar table and even hammocks. Since roof spaces in dense cities can be small, it is important to make sure you optimise the use of your (potentially limited) space as best as possible.

The green roof

If you have a flat roof and are looking for ideas to spruce it up and add an extra something for relaxation, you could turn it into a green roof. This could act as an additive space for meditation and other activities and even end up as your own personal park. Green roofs also absorb the rainwater falling on the city, and this would be beneficial for the city too, as it would reduce street runoff. The benefits are many, from aesthetic value, personal space and making your house more eco friendly.

You can choose to create any of the following three types of rooftop gardens or “green” roofs or even a combination of them:

1. Ornamental green roofs

These are the types of green roofs that are primarily used for leisure and enjoyment. You could provide a small green space with seating nearby, where you can entertain your guests or simply use it as a space for yourself.

2. Functional green roofs

These green roofs are mainly vegetable gardens, where you can grow herbs and other vegetables. You can grow your own organic produce to always ensure a fresh supply and even reduce your grocery expenses.

3. Natural green roofs

These green roofs are made of naturally occurring plants and weeds, which are low-to-no maintenance. These provide aesthetic as well as sustainable benefits.

In the case of a renovation of your already existing terrace space, you can also opt for extra insulation and solar panels to make your home more sustainable. This will help in turn by reducing your energy costs, and making your home more comfortable to live in!

The process

To help you through the process of designing and building your roof terrace, we have noted the different points you would need to be aware of and carry out:

1. Do you need a permit?

You need to start by checking if you need to apply for a permit from your municipality for such a renovation. If you are planning to hire an architect, they can also help check the permit requirements that apply to your situation. An architect will also be able to prepare all the drawings and documentation needed for a permit application and coordinate with the concerned authorities.

Make sure you follow the correct rules and apply for the permit on time. Also, it's best to wait for the permit before starting the construction process, to prevent any complications later on.

Privacy would be one of the main considerations for the permit, so in case your rooftop space overlooks your neighbour’s property, you might have to think about a solution for that.

2. The costs

Whether you are newly constructing your rooftop terrace or renovating your already existing space, make sure to correctly estimate the required cost of your project. The cost estimate would depend on whether your project needs structural supports, the materials you choose, and the size and other construction elements of your roof terrace.

An accurate estimate of the project would help you keep your finances in check and ensure you have enough for all the work you plan to do, as well as prevent last-minute surprises, especially if you have a tight budget. Also, make sure you leave an extra margin in your cost estimate for any unforeseen circumstances. You can create an accurate estimate and stick to it by deciding on the design priorities for your space.

3. Is it technically feasible?

Check the structural integrity of your home and the stability of your roof. You need to ensure that the existing structure is strong enough to take on the extra load. Otherwise, reinforcement may be required. Your architect and / or contractor would be able to help you with this step. They would also be able to help decide what materials would work best for the basic frame of your project. Also consider if the access to the rooftop space is safe, or if work needs to be done on creating a new access.

4. Make the best of the space!

Ensure you spend time creating the optimal layout to optimise the use of space. There are endless ways to be smart about using a small space to do big things! Use smarter design solutions and manage your priorities by deciding what you want your space to cater to, so you can do more with less space.

Make sure not to overcrowd your space with elements, because you will lose flexibility. And the more flexible the space is, the better it will be at accommodating more people if required. Also, make sure to use durable furniture, so it doesn’t get damaged by different weather conditions.

Many benefits

With the summer approaching, there has not been a better time to consider creating your own private outdoor space. Ultimately, a rooftop terrace gives you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in the privacy of your own home. Opting for a space on your terrace can give you benefits such as energy savings, lower temperatures indoors, and increases your property value and aesthetic appeal.

Your rooftop garden could also provide insulation, keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It also provides the perfect space for relaxation and leisure, whether by yourself or with friends!

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes


Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes

Architect, author, international speaker, Founder and CEO of AKKA Architects, Stephanie is part of a new breed of young visionary architects who operate beyond the nowadays restrained realm of architecture....

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