Take It from the Top

By on Aug 25, 2022 in News

Common onsite amenities available to occupiers of commercial and residential properties are widely known: gyms, laundry service, parking spaces, pet services and clubrooms, among others. But there’s a special location that can provide a key differentiator in the competition to attract and retain occupants: the roof.

“Today, particularly at higher-end properties, unique rooftop amenities have proven to be a deciding factor in community selection for future residents,” says Brandon Reed, chief visionary officer at Salt Lake City-area rooftop amenity designer Loft Six Four. Moreover, they offer revenue opportunities like higher retention rates, higher rental yield and sale prices per square foot.

“Once a forgotten space used only for cooling towers, water tanks and elevator machine rooms, or private amenities to attract tenants, building rooftops and setbacks are getting long overdue appreciation. Rather than being a sign of exclusivity, these rooftop spaces are becoming an essential part of any well-positioned office building,” adds Ambrose Aliaga-Kelly, a technical director for global architecture, design and planning firm Gensler.

Popular rooftop amenities include safe play areas for children; swimming pools; gardens; lounges; outdoor kitchens; putting greens, games, yoga studios and lockers; outdoor TVs, Wi-Fi, USB ports, charging stations and other technology; and pet amenities like dog parks and washing stations.

Aside from being space-efficient, an especially important consideration in high-demand metros with low vacancy rates and limited space for extras, rooftop amenities offer something that isn’t available at lower levels: a view. “A roof terrace with breathtaking city skyline views can be a major draw for potential tenants and buyers,” according to Reed.

And there’s an energy angle too. Repurposing roofs on older residential and commercial buildings can reduce their carbon footprint. Green or planted roofs can help lower a building’s energy consumption by insulating it and providing a thermal barrier. Rooftop solar panels can also create a renewable energy source to offset the building’s energy needs.

“Rooftop amenities add value in the eyes of the customer, meaning it captures value from future tenants. People are willing to pay more for a premium product, and this in turn raises the overall property value,” according to Bullock Tice Associates, an architecture and design firm in Pensacola, Fla. “Commercial buildings are a long-term investment, meaning that either the developer or the future property owner will be profiting from this investment for years to come.”

Obviously, property owners need to engage designers, structural engineers and building code experts to consider load capacities, fire protection, ADA accommodations, occupancy constraints, waterproofing, egress and other requirements before they consider repurposing a rooftop. But the effort can be well worth it, opening new possibilities for revenue and occupant satisfaction. As Ben Meisel, a leasing director of leasing at Washington, D.C. commercial real estate developer Akridge, notes, the roof of a commercial and residential building isn’t “just a place to go eat lunch anymore.”