10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

I’ve found 10 Weird and Wonderful things about flats! Living in flats myself, this really interests me. 

The global population predicted  to rise from 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion by 2050.  Two thirds of us are expected to live in a city by then and it’s highly likely we’ll be living even closer to our neighbours!

10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

There are already a high proportion of flats in the UK.  The Government estimates 2.75m private leasehold flats across in England. This works out to an eighth of properties, not including Scotland and Wales!

Deacon Insurance specialists told us 10 weird and wonderful things about flats past, present and future. I just had to share them with you!

10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

The Romans built the first flats


Did you know it was the Romans who built the first flats? Rome’s success led to massive population growth in the first century BC. Housing became a major challenge so the Romans built stronger, higher structures.  They used concrete, based on lime and volcanic sand. This allowed them to create new architectural forms, while a standardised brick allowed for speedy and reliable construction. Early multi-storey blocks typically had shops on the ground floor with apartments on two or more floors above. These multi-storey blocks were called insula or “islands”. They were called this because they usually occupied an entire city block. Roads flowed around these blocks like the sea.

2. Forest flats!

Two Milan apartment buildings have trees swaying on balconies and sunshine dapples the leaves of thousands of plants creating a vertical forest!  Milanese architect Stefano Boeri created the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) using more than 20,000 trees and plants. These adorn the high-rise buildings from top to bottom. This project is now being exported all over the world, from China to the Netherlands. Trees are good for cities and the people that live in them.

3. Forgotten for 70 years

You have to read this to believe it! Back in 1934,before the outbreak of hostilities of WWII, a famous actress called Marthe de Florian fled her Paris apartment for the south of France never returned. Extraordinarily, the owner of the building never noticed!  When he died in 2010, experts called in to assess the value of his estate and stumbled across a scene that was frozen in time.  The flat was left untouched by time!


4. Shapeshifters

It may sound like science fiction, but the world’s first shape shifting rotating tower block is set to be built for Dubai by 2020 according to architectural firm Dynamic Group.

5. Recycling on a gargantuan scale

In our inner cities some of the biggest re-cycling projects of the millennium are taking place. Where familiar buildings are being saved from demolition or neglect by being converted into flats. This means the original character and features of landmark buildings are preserved. The BBC Television Centre at White City, Battersea Power Station and the Hoover Building in London are fine examples. The first residential tower block in the UK, “The Lawn”, was constructed in Harlow, Essex in 1951. This is now a Grade II listed building. Conversions are taking place across the country with no shortage of buyers for urban loft apartments in prime city centre locations. The trend is set to continue!

6 That whistle in your apartment block is a train coming through!
Chinese planners wouldn’t let a railway get in the way of the need to build more flats. Apartments were desperately needed in the emerging mega-city of Chongqing. So the train line simply goes straight through the residential building!

7. Tallest, Smallest, Largest – where in the world?

Currently, the Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper is the tallest in the world standing at 72 metres high.  In 2020 this is set to change as the 1000 metre mile high Jeddah Tower, with serviced apartments, is set to claim the prize of being the world’s tallest building. For a while anyway!  

The Chinese city of Wuhan has serious concerns of overpopulation so they’ve gone tiny.  The city has built two person apartments that are only 50 square feet! 

As for the largest, the first prize has to go to The Copan Building in São Paulo, familiar to Sim City players as a building they can drop in.  The 38-story residential building comprises over 1,160 apartment units and homes more than 5,000 residents!

8. Going underground and underwater?

It may seem crazy but architects are looking seriously at the possibilities of building down rather than up! In 2011 a so-called Earthscraper for Mexico City was mooted, a 35-storey upside down pyramid. The concept is still on the drawing board, with a host of practical and structural challenges to overcome. The Mexico City proposal is still the only plan to have been seriously put forward. With 70% of the earth’s surface covered by water, surely underwater cities are next? Sure enough, Aequorea, a visionary city that would be built off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, has been proposed.

9. Most expensive

Unsurprisingly, London ranks No.2 in the world for the highest cost of a city centre flat, second only to Hong Kong. How do living costs vary within the UK? MSN Money looked at different costs of living in UK cities , with housing as the major component. Not surprisingly London came out top, you need £7090 a month to live a comfortable life. Oxford, Edinburgh and Brighton at £5000 a month come very close. Ouch! You could commute and halve your living costs. Southampton residents need ‘only’ about £3000 a month. Although after years of rail strikes and woes, that could be cold comfort.  If money were no object? The UK’s most expensive flat, valued in October 2018 came in at £160 million.  It’s address?  One Hyde Park, London. SW1

10. The last word…..the legacy of feudalism

People are often amazed to learn that it is still possible to lose your flat and be left with nothing if you break the terms of the lease or don’t pay service charges! No matter how long you’ve been paying your mortgage or service charges, this still applies.

It has become harder over the years for a freeholder (aka landlord) to get you out and claim the flat, but it can happen.  Where did such a feudal practice come from? Land law in Britain owes much to the feudal system that developed following the Norman Conquest with the rights to grant inferior interests (aka leases) in land and to take income from these.  

By the 16th century, the law of leases in England and Wales had become a very confusing system. An attempt to tackle this was the Law of Property Acts 1925, which limited ownership to either freehold or leasehold as we do today. Interestingly, covenants on freehold property defines only what you cannot do. On leasehold they can also say what you must do, such as pay for the upkeep of an asset still ultimately owned by the freeholder!

In Scotland it’s all very different, where no duty to pay ‘feu duty, the equivalent of ground rent, could be set up after 1974. No residential lease for more than 20 years could be created.  The feudal structure was finally abolished in Scotland in 2004. Further laws since have converted long leases over 175 years into straightforward ownership.  

* Deacon has specialised in providing buildings insurance and associated products for flats and apartments for more than 29 years. Find out more at www.deacon.co.uk

3 comments

    I've lived in a few flats over the years and I must say I prefer my house definitely but they do serve a purpose and I think we will see more flats in the future.

    Rachael Stray | 2 weeks ago Reply

    This is so interesting. Those forest flats are amazing! What a great idea! I don't think I'd want to live in the one with the train coming through it though. x Kim Carberry recently posted...This week my Word of the Week is: Spoiled! #WotWMy Profile

    Kim Carberry | 2 weeks ago Reply

      I love the forest flats but agree with you on the train on! We aren't far from our station and at night the cargo trains can be quite loud. Having that go past your bedroom would be awful!

      RelentlesslyPurple | 2 weeks ago Reply

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