At SJA we specialise in making your wonderful home renovation and extension dreams a reality whatever they may be.
Basement excavation projects are some of the most exciting projects and can create wonderful and valuable spaces.
However, there are very real challenges in every basement project.
Firstly planning is getting more difficult. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea recently brought out new guidance notes for planning on basement projects aimed at making basement development more restrictive. Other councils are following suit. The notes are not aimed at stopping basements, instead, they are aimed at making sure that all basement projects are well-considered and managed from their outset.
Secondly, it has always been the case that basement projects have always presented challenges. From a structural engineering point of view, zero ground movement is not possible. You are excavating under old buildings and there will be cracking and movement to some extent no matter what the level of precautions taken by your building contractor.
Thirdly, things can go wrong. However, managing the risk and minimising the chance of problems is in your control. The vast majority of basement associated insurance claims are in relation to poor design, construction and project management.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Paul Adair, Firefighter and expert in extinguishing and capping oil well explosions.
SJA recommends the following approach:
1) Hire experienced professionals and building contractors to minimise risk for basement projects and a lead professional who will manage and maintain good processes; soil and site investigations, design, planning, building control, other statutory applications, party wall matters and project management.
2) Appoint appropriately qualified professionals on bespoke briefs; qualifications to consider: Chartered Geologist CGeol, Chartered Civil or Structural Engineer CEng MICE or CEng IStructE, Chartered Member of Institute of Water and Environmental Management C.WEM, Specialist or adviser grade on UK Register of ground Engineering Professionals RoGep, Chartered Architect RIBA and a Party Wall Specialist MRICS or other. Appointing a lead professional who understands these roles is vital to ensure appropriate appointments on well-defined briefs. As well as ensuring everything is done properly this will avoid the cost and hassle of unnecessary or badly defined appointments.
3) Avoid legal pitfalls in basement construction: employ experienced professionals and building contractors who are also great communicators and problem solvers, plan ahead with a design phase prior to breaking ground, make robust Party Wall Awards and schedules of condition with neighbours
Why not follow SJA’s ‘Party Wall Key Messages’ in your communication with neighbours?), monitor works properly, seek appropriate consents, adapt appropriately to the unforeseen and deal with damage or other issues promptly.