Photo of Arthur Kay

Energy & sustainability

Arthur Kay

Their low-cost rooftop homes could solve the ongoing problem of key urban workers living in cities
Photo credit: Ed Robinson

Year Honored



Hails From
United Kingdom

If the the well known prediction that 75% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050 is true, so is the fact that new solutions are needed to manage housing within these areas. As scarcity and cost of urban land suitable for building increases, so does their purchase and rental prices. This issue forces people to either move further and further away from the centre and into peripheral areas where it may take hours to get to work, or to invest large portions of their wages in living. The situation becomes especially critical for those key urban workers who provide city services, such as police officers, teachers, and healthcare staff.

Inspired by the issue at hand and in order to give these workers a solution, the entrepreneur, Arthur Kay, has created Skyroom, an initiative that provides these workers with high-quality, sustainable, and affordable homes, located close to where they work: Skyroom. His company is based on the installation of modular homes on building rooftops. Skyroom assures that, thanks to agreements with private and public building owners, they have gained access to these roofs at prices ten times lower than normal urban land. This ensures that they can transform them into useful safe spaces and lease them to key urban workers at an affordable price.

In addition to their low cost, Kay assures that these homes “exceed current environmental and architectural standards and are created by leading designers and architects.” Being manufactured entirely in factories and transported as a module to the rooftops with cranes, they “take 100 times less time to install," he adds.

In the United Kingdom, the average price of a home is 275,000 euros and has increased by 1.3% over the last year. London, where this figure more than doubles, is the first city where the project has begun to be successfully implemented. In 2018, 20 homes of this type were built in the city. By 2021, Kay and his team aim to have 100 finished and installed Skyroom homes, and by 2030, about 10,000.

With this project, Kay has become one of the winners of Innovators Under 35 Europe from MIT Technology Review. This young innovator is also the Founder and Director of bio-bean, a leading clean technology company that manufactures a range of high-quality and sustainable biofuel and biochemicals; produced by recycled coffee grounds.  

Rafael Luque, Professor of the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cordoba, Spain and member of the Innovators Under 35 Jury, considers Skyroom to be "a unique concept with great potential that can be extended to many cities where the housing situation is an economic problem."

By Wendy Barnet
Translation: Brian Bostwick