|  Ramzi Chamat

Elevation: A solution to the housing shortage?

The housing crisis in dense urban areas is a major challenge of the 21st century, prompting experts and authorities alike to seek creative and sustainable solutions. As ground space becomes increasingly precious and scarce, the elevation of existing buildings is emerging as a promising avenue. This approach aims to optimize the use of airspace to create additional housing, while seeking to preserve the urban fabric and minimize environmental impacts.




Elevation, while offering many advantages in terms of efficient use of space and reduction of urban sprawl, is far from being a seamless solution. Technical, financial and social challenges abound, making the implementation of this strategy complex. In this article, we will explore the various facets of elevation as a potential response to the housing shortage, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages, and examining the conditions necessary for this solution to be successfully and equitably realized.



I. Efficient use of urban space


Raising the height of buildings is an innovative and judicious strategy for optimizing the use of space in densely populated urban environments. It involves adding extra storeys to existing built structures, thus exploiting available vertical space that would otherwise be unused.


1. Benefits for city centers


In city centers, where land is both scarce and expensive, elevation offers a valuable alternative for increasing housing capacity. Rather than expanding horizontally, which is often impossible in dense urban environments, towns can develop vertically, minimizing the footprint of new buildings.


2. Preserving architectural heritage


Another significant advantage of elevation is its ability to preserve existing architectural heritage. Rather than demolishing and rebuilding, a practice that can result in the loss of historically or aesthetically significant buildings, elevation maintains the architectural integrity of existing structures. This not only helps preserve the unique character and identity of neighborhoods, but also helps maintain visual and historical continuity in the urban fabric.


3. Reducing urban sprawl


By encouraging the densification of already-developed areas, elevation plays a key role in combating urban sprawl. By making more efficient use of vertical space, cities can accommodate a growing population without encroaching on surrounding farmland or natural areas. This contributes to more sustainable development and the preservation of vital ecosystems.


Partial conclusion


Elevation, as a method of making efficient use of urban space, therefore offers multiple advantages. It allows thoughtful densification, preserves architectural heritage and helps to combat urban sprawl. However, to realize its full potential, it needs to be carefully planned and implemented, taking into account technical challenges and minimizing disruption to existing residents.



II. Reducing urban sprawl


Urban sprawl, characterized by the uncontrolled, dispersed growth of cities, is a major problem affecting the environment, the economy and people's quality of life. In this context, elevation is a strategic solution, designed to encourage vertical development at the expense of horizontal expansion.


1. Protecting natural and agricultural areas


One of the main advantages of elevation is its ability to preserve green spaces, farmland and natural habitats on the outskirts of urban centers. By optimizing the use of space in already built-up areas, we reduce the pressure on these peripheral lands, thus contributing to their protection and conservation. This is all the more crucial as these areas play an essential role as green lungs, biodiversity zones and food reserves for cities.


2. Promoting sustainable urban development


Elevation embodies a more sustainable approach to urban development. By concentrating growth within existing city limits, it promotes the creation of more compact communities well served by public transport. This results in shorter commuting distances, reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and helping to combat climate change.


3. Mitigating traffic problems and reducing journey times


By curbing urban sprawl, elevation also helps to alleviate traffic problems and reduce journey times. Citizens living in densely populated, well-connected urban environments benefit from easier access to services, jobs and leisure activities, improving their quality of life and reducing dependence on personal vehicles.


Partial conclusion


In short, elevation is emerging as a major lever for countering urban sprawl and promoting more harmonious, sustainable urban development. By enhancing the value of vertical space and creating more compact, resilient living environments, it offers a concrete response to contemporary urban challenges, while preserving the precious natural and agricultural resources that surround our cities.



III. Nuisances and disturbances


Although elevation offers many advantages in terms of efficient use of urban space and reduction of urban sprawl, it is not without its challenges and constraints, particularly in terms of the nuisance and disruption it can cause to existing residents.


1. Impacts on quality of life


The construction work inherent in elevation projects inevitably generates noise, dust and vibrations, which can significantly alter the quality of life of the residents of the buildings concerned and their immediate surroundings. These nuisances can disrupt the tranquillity, comfort and even health of residents, making the implementation of mitigation strategies crucial.


2. The need for careful planning


Careful planning is essential to minimize the negative impacts of elevation work. This includes the establishment of suitable work schedules, the implementation of acoustic barriers and dust control measures, and the use of less invasive technologies and construction methods.


3. The importance of communication and resident involvement


The success of any elevation project depends to a large extent on transparency and effective communication with the residents concerned. It's vital to inform residents clearly and in advance of the work planned, its potential implications and the measures taken to mitigate any nuisance. Moreover, involving residents in the decision-making process and taking their needs and concerns into account helps to create a climate of trust and facilitate acceptance of the project.


Partial conclusion


Ultimately, while elevation is a promising solution to the challenges of urbanization and housing shortage, it is imperative to proactively manage the nuisance and disruption it can cause. Meticulous planning, transparent communication and careful attention to residents' needs are essential to ensure that the benefits of elevation outweigh its drawbacks, thus ensuring the success and sustainability of these innovative urban projects.


IV. Technical challenges and costs


Addressing the question of elevation inevitably involves considering the substantial technical challenges and associated costs involved. These aspects are crucial and largely determine the feasibility and success of an elevation project.


1. Reinforcing existing structures


One of the main technical challenges of elevation is the need to reinforce existing structures so that they can support the additional weight of the new floors. This can be a complex task, requiring specialist structural engineering expertise and a thorough assessment of the building's current condition. Foundations, load-bearing walls and other structural elements all need to be examined and reinforced where necessary, ensuring the stability and safety of the building as a whole.


2. High costs and financing


The costs associated with structural reinforcement work, as with other aspects of construction in a dense urban environment, can be high. Elevation projects require substantial financial investment, and financing such work is a major challenge for owners, investors and developers. Identifying and securing sources of financing, whether private, public or mixed, is a crucial step in bringing these projects to fruition.


3. Cost management and profitability


Effective cost management is another key element in ensuring the economic viability of elevation projects. Thorough feasibility studies, accurate budgeting and rigorous project management strategies are essential to control costs and maximize profitability. Analyzing returns on investment and understanding long-term benefits, both in terms of property value and contributions to urban sustainability, are also essential.


Partial conclusion


In conclusion, although elevation offers a promising route to meeting housing needs and promoting sustainable urban development, it is not without its challenges, particularly in terms of technical challenges and associated costs. Tackling these challenges proactively, by investing in thorough technical assessments and ensuring rigorous financial management, is essential to guarantee the success and sustainability of elevation projects. This approach will not only contribute to the realization of viable and safe elevation projects, but will also play a crucial role in promoting more resilient and sustainable urban development.



V. Accessibility and safety


The initiative to raise buildings, while providing solutions in terms of urban planning and housing, also poses crucial requirements in terms of accessibility and safety. These aspects are of paramount importance and must be taken into consideration right from the earliest planning stages.


1. Improving accessibility


Adding extra floors to an existing building necessarily involves a reassessment of accessibility. For residents and visitors alike, it is imperative to guarantee easy and safe access to the new floors. This may involve installing additional elevators or upgrading existing ones, as well as installing staircases that comply with safety and accessibility standards. It's essential to also think about accessibility for people with reduced mobility, ensuring that new facilities are inclusive and accessible to all.


2. Compliance with safety standards


When it comes to elevation, strict compliance with safety standards is non-negotiable. This includes standards relating to fire resistance, emergency evacuation and structural safety. Every new floor must be designed and built in compliance with current regulations, guaranteeing the safety of all residents. Fire detection and control systems, emergency exits and other safety devices must be updated and reinforced accordingly.


3. Safety planning and testing


Careful planning and rigorous testing are essential to ensure that new facilities and improvements meet the most stringent accessibility and safety requirements. Simulations and evacuation drills may be necessary to test the effectiveness of new arrangements and ensure that all residents are familiar with emergency procedures.


Partial conclusion


In short, ensuring accessibility and safety in elevation projects is paramount. It requires a firm commitment to the highest standards, careful planning, and rigorous implementation. By taking these steps, developers, architects and property managers can ensure that the benefits of elevation are fully realized, while guaranteeing the well-being and safety of all residents. This responsible and inclusive approach contributes to the creation of safe and accessible housing, strengthening the resilience and sustainability of urban environments.





Elevation presents itself as an innovative and strategic approach to respond to the housing crisis in densely populated urban spaces. By exploiting the potential of vertical space, it offers a viable alternative to urban sprawl, while contributing to the revitalization of existing structures and the preservation of architectural heritage.


However, this solution is not without challenges. The nuisance and disruption caused during construction work, the technical challenges linked to the reinforcement of existing structures, and the high costs associated with these projects require particular attention. In addition, the accessibility and safety of new housing must be at the heart of concerns, in order to guarantee the well-being of all residents.


Ultimately, elevation must be considered as an element of an overall urban development strategy, aiming to create more sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities. The involvement of all relevant stakeholders, transparency in decision-making processes and commitment to equity and sustainability are essential to transform challenges into opportunities, and to make elevation a success in the service of community.

Shortage of nearly 50,000 housing units throughout Switzerland within the next three years.

Shortage of nearly 50,000 housing units throughout Switzerland within the next three years.

The Housing shortage in Switzerland: An imminent crisis ?

The Housing shortage in Switzerland: An imminent crisis ?