Penthouses stand apart from other apartments by two factors – height and luxury. Typically, penthouses are located on the topmost floor(s) of the residential block, with exclusive private terraces and other luxury amenities. Height restrictions on residential buildings were recently lifted in Chennai and luxury, for those that can afford it, has never been a restricted commodity. A rise in the number of penthouses, presently being seen in the city, is an obvious indicator of a real estate boom.
Historically, penthouses have always stood as a symbol of economic growth. First conceived in New York the “Roaring Twenties” decade, they were built to accommodate the space shortage in highly developed urban areas, juxtaposed with the increasing affluence of those who were making big money in an economy that seemed rock-steady at the time.
Even as basic salaries stay put, affluence is increasing among the high-income groups, driving a demand for penthouses from those who don’t mind paying a little extra for the exclusivity. Developers who pay close attention to the whims of elite clients have woken up to the trend and are offering elaborate customization, outfitting the deluxe pads with everything and the kitchen sink. “It is a segment that has been steadily picking up over a period of time,” says Kalpana Murthy, Associate Director of Residential Services at Cushman and Wakefield.
Kalpana has met several clients who are specific about their demands for a penthouse and do not want to settle for less. Although statistics that deal purely with the proliferation of penthouses are hard to come by, it is largely accepted that the trend is catching on in a rapid way. “Despite the increase, I wouldn’t say that there are as many penthouses in the city as there are in Bangalore,” says Kalpana, citing Bangalore’s expansive green cover and the perceived lack thereof in Chennai as a reason to blame. “Buildings are getting higher and it is the right time to promote the greening of our communities to prevent it from becoming a sterile concrete jungle,” she says.
Another deciding factor that has worked against Chennai’s favor has been the shortage of unique features at most penthouse projects, which the luxury clientele are normally keen on. In this regard, Chennai has only begun to shed its conservative thinking and key value-additions like smart home technology, automated security and surveillance systems, swanky automobile elevators and rooftop Jacuzzis are yet to become viable, if not popular. Basics like waterproofing, tiling, fittings and fixtures, and space-allocation for the support-staff also deserve the highest attention. As Kalpana points out, “If the penthouse above my apartment has a rooftop swimming pool, I’ll naturally be concerned about my ceiling leaking out!”
Larger accommodation area (whether single or duplex), open-to-sky terraces and high-end specs are the three main characteristics of penthouses but Kalpana urges that there is a lot more to look into when you go shopping for one. “The expanse of the total built-up area and the private area is to be looked into. A minimum area of 500 square feet of private terrace is the norm. A built-up area of four bedrooms alone does not command the exclusivity of penthouse,” she says, adding, “When a penthouse occupies the entire floor, the non-FSI area is not a common area and yet it involves a certain amount of construction cost to the builder which has to be compensated,” Norms for Non-FSI garden space, terrace space, floor rise charges and PLC also influence prices but given the extra area that’s available, penthouses can be an interior decorator’s dream feels Kalpana.
Sandeep Mehta, President of CREDAI and the Managing Director of Jain’s Housing and Construction Limited, believes that premium prices command the best facilities and in Saligramam, the uppermost floor has been converted into a luxury floor with penthouse apartments of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet in size. Sandeep acknowledges that builders have to try and upgrade specifications suiting to the needs of high-end buyers and stresses on the livability aspect.
In paperback fiction, penthouses may have gained a reputation of being high-end bachelor pads and swanky love nests but they are also ideal for families. “The proximity to nature, availability of breathable air, lack of noise and pollution give penthouses the warmth and feel of a villa of an independent house within an apartment block,” he says.
At Savithanjali, a project by Marg Properties, located near Kelambakkam, penthouses are designed with no common-wall sharing. “Given the preferential location, penthouses have an in-built advantage because of the height. At Savithanjali, the penthouse at the 16th floor offers expansive views of the sea and of OMR at night,” says B Balaji, the spokesperson.
At present, things are getting heated with the announcement of Akshaya’s Abov, which will be Chennai’s tallest residential tower. The penthouse on the 38th floor at Abov could be Chennai’s most exciting one as yet. “The duplex apartment at 11,000 Square feet will have South India’s largest floor plate for a penthouse of 6,800 Square feet, offering the architect plenty of scope to play with form,” says Chitty Babu, Chairman and Managing Director of Akshaya Properties. The distinction could mark the first step in making Chennai a hot destination for luxury penthouses but high-costs ensure a limited supply and accessibility to only those with deep pockets. Maybe money can’t buy you love, but penthouses could well be the next best thing.
Source: Times Property, The Times of India, Chennai