Building Housing Over Freeways (Airspace Homes)



Building Housing Over Freeways (Airspace Homes)

Charlie Perla
Principal Architect, DMS PERLA

Freeways have a long, contentious relationship with neighborhoods and the residents that live near them – freeways are noisy, polluting, and divide many communities in half, quite literally. The proposed housing design innovation – “Airspace Homes” – by Charlie Perla, Principal Architect of DMS PERLA, is flipping the script on freeways by turning the vacant airspace above below-grade freeways in high-density urban areas into new desirable, development space. By bridging over and covering freeways with long-spanning foundations, it is possible to turn freeway trenches into street-level retail, parking, and parks, improving the neighborhood around it.

In expensive, land-locked, highly supply constrained housing markets, like Santa Monica, where suitable land for new development can cost upwards of $800 per square foot, bridging the airspace above freeways is starting to become an economically viable option. Using traditional bridge building and podium foundation construction (with 75′-wide spanning foundations), it is estimated to cost approximately $500-$650 per square foot to create this “new” type land out of ‘thin air’. And the good news is, across most American cities, there is an abundance of this type of ‘new land’ waiting to be used and already owned and controlled by the public. In Los Angeles County alone, there are 515 miles of freeways, which would equate to more than 54,000 new standard-sized lots (50 feet wide by 150 feet deep), providing an opportunity to build hundreds of thousands of new homes with zero neighborhood displacement.

Taking a new spin on the mantra of ‘housing is infrastructure’, learn how this innovation in land use and design can help ‘fill in’ what so many neighborhoods are missing with a new walkable street, car parking, and most importantly, a new foundation for more affordable housing.


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