Now, more than ever, rooftop amenities are a profit source for developers and building owners in Utah. Prospective tenants and buyers are paying top dollar for resort-style amenity spaces on building rooftops that enhance their living experience. These outdoor environments leave building owners in the prime position to capitalize on higher returns, but they can also open the door to greater development risks.
There are a few risks specific to rooftop amenity construction that are important to consider in the planning stage of a development. Beginning the project with thorough due diligence is the only way to ensure long-term success.
In this article, we provide an overview of some of the universal risks that developers might otherwise overlook.
1. DEVELOP A REALISTIC BUDGET
We’ve been told that optimism is good for you, but when it comes to budgeting, preparing for the worst is the only way to go. Without a clear and concise budget that has contingencies planned out and strategies to overcome pitfalls, you risk slashing your bottom line. Include as much as you can in your budget; it’s always better to come under-budget on a sum that is a little under what you hoped than to be shocked by going severely over-budget.
2. ESTABLISH A REALISTIC TIMELINE
Timeline and budget are connected at the hip. Where one goes, the other will follow. It is crucial to any development project that includes rooftop amenities to create a realistic timeline. Understanding how long permit acquisition and construction will realistically take is the difference between a success and a waste of time.
3. DON’T MAKE LUXURY A LIABILITY
Young families may want indoor and outdoor play areas, while business professionals may appreciate a luxury pool and lounge/work spaces, pet owners might gravitate towards dog parks. All of those and more are examples of what may be considered a luxury rooftop amenity, and whether built-in from the beginning or retrofitted later to meet resident demand, they add higher value to the properties that have them.
But with any rooftop amenity, be it something as simple as a basketball court or as complex as an infinity edge lounge pool, comes potential liability. Making sure your property has enough of the right kind of insurance coverage for its rooftop amenities is a crucial part of your job.
4. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF MOTHER NATURE
Designing rooftop amenities to address snow and ice should be common sense in a place like Salt Lake City, yet it is remarkable how few roof designs take these factors into account. Leaks and roof replacement are costly enough, but there are even bigger liabilities, including cases of serious human injury and death. Snow should never hold a building owner hostage though. Expertly designed rooftops can be both attractive and less costly to build and maintain, so it is important to get the design right the first time.
5. WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF, WATERPROOF!
Decks over living space are usually desirable because of the view they afford. They seem simple, but actually are fraught with potential for problems, unless you are familiar with the requirements. Chief among the requirements is protecting them from moisture. Anytime you build something you walk on over living space, you’ve got to make sure no water comes in. Water leakage into the space below can result from improper installation procedures. A second problem is load.
6. ENGAGE A SPECIALIZED AND QUALIFIED LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
When it comes to putting a usable rooftop deck space on a new building, there are a number of design and engineering challenges that go beyond safety. Designing a high-traffic surface on a delicate, leak-prone structure is a tricky proposition, and therefore, one that requires a great deal of expertise.
It goes without saying that developers need to take an active role to guarantee that only a qualified landscape architect designs their rooftop amenities.