The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History

The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History

Flats account for a high proportion of homes in the UK. The Government has estimated that there are already 2.75 million private leasehold flats in England. This is approximately an eighth of all dwellings in England alone – believe it or not, this figure doesn’t even include Scotland and Wales. I think you’ll agree this makes flats a very popular choice for UK residents.

This is only likely to increase over the coming years. The global population is predicted to rise from the current 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion by 2050. By then, two-thirds of us are likely to be living in cities. A world with more flats in is inevitable.


So what is the history of flats?

Flats insurance specialist Deacon* have shared 10 weird and wonderful things about flats past, present and future and I’m going to share them with you today!


1 The Romans built the first flats

From the middle of the first century BC, Rome’s success led to a huge growth in population.  The Romans had a huge challenge on their hands when it came to housing and so they learnt to build both higher and stronger buildings. They used concrete based on lime and volcanic sand. The multi-story blocks that usually had shops on the ground floors and apartments above were called ‘islands’. This is because often the entire city block was occupied and the roads flowed around them like the sea.


2 Forest flats

There are two apartment buildings in the middle of Milan where trees sway on the balconies and the sun shines of the leaves of a thousand plants and it looks like a vertical forest. The Bosco Verticale (vertical forest) was created by Stefano Boeri, a Milanese architect. It has more than 20,000 plants and trees that adorn the high rise buildings from the bottom to the top. The project can now be seen being done all over the world including the Netherlands and China. Trees are great for cities so this can only be a good thing.


The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History


3 Forgotten for 70 years

In 1934 a famous actress called Marthe de Florian fled from her apartment in Paris for the South of France and she never went back. This might not sound that extraordinary but apparently, the owner of the building never noticed. When he died in 2010, his estate was valued and the experts instructed came across a scene that looked like it had been frozen in time because it has been left completely untouched. Marthe de Florian was either very good with rent payments or the owner was very lapse with his finances. Either way, imagine the dust!


4 Shapeshifters

The world’s first shapeshifting rotating tower block is planned for Dubai by the year 2020. This is according to architectural firm Dynamic Group. It could well be the future!


5 Recycling on a gargantuan scale

Familiar buildings are being saved from demolition all over the UK by being converted into flats and apartments. BBC Television Centre at is one example, as is Battersea Power Station in London. This is great news because it means that the original features and characters of landmark buildings are preserved and history doesn’t need to be demolished.  Across the country, conversions are taking place on a daily basis and there is no shortage of buyers for loft apartments in city centre locations.


6 That whistle in your apartment block is a train coming through!

In the mega-city of Chongqing in China, planners didn’t let a railway get in their way – the train line goes right through the middle of a residential building. For real. Choo choo indeed!


The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History


7 Tallest, Smallest, Largest – wherein the world?

The world’s tallest skyscraper is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It stands at 72 metres high but this is soon to be surpassed. In 2020 a 1000 metre mile-high skyscraper called the Jeddah Tower which will contain serviced apartments, is set to take first prize as the worlds tallest building.

At the other end of the scale, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, they have serious concerns of overpopulation and they have taken things in the opposite directions. They have built two-person apartments that are just 50 square feet. If this is the smallest then the largest is The Copan Building in São Paulo. This 38 story residential building has over 1160 apartments and is home to over 5000 residents.


8 Going underground and underwater?

It’s not the year 3000 but architects are looking at the possibility of building down rather than up. Back in 2011, an ‘earth scraper’ was mooted a 35 storey upside down pyramid. It sounds insane and the whole concept is still at drawing board stage with there being many structural and practical challenges ahead.


9 Most expensive

London ranks number 2 in the world for the highest cost of a city centre flat, second to Hong Kong. The cost of living varies in the UK with Londoners needing over £7000 a month to live comfortably. Southampton residents need ‘only’ £3000 to live a comfortable life.

If money were no object you could buy the UK’s most expensive flat. Recently valued at a cool £160 million an located at One Hyde Park, London, SW1


The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History


10  The last word…..the legacy of feudalism

In this day and age, it is still possible to lose your flat and be left with nothing if you don’t pay the service charges or break the terms of your lease. It doesn’t matter how long you have been paying your mortgage for, this still applies. It has become harder for the freeholder to get you out but it can happen and it is something that residents need to be aware of.

Land law in Britain owes most of its feudal system from the days of the Norman Conquest. By the 16th century, the law of leases in England and Wales was a very confusing system. The Law of Property Acts 1925 was an attempt to tackle this and it limited ownership to either freehold or leasehold, which is pretty much where we are today. The feudal structure was finally abolished in Scotland in 2004 and further laws since have converted long leases over 175 years into straightforward ownership.  


*Deacon Insurance has specialised in providing buildings insurance and associated products for flats and apartments for more than 29 years. 



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The Wonderful World of Flats and Their History




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