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Thu April 15 2021

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CIRIA responds to basement construction problems

23 Jul 15 Wealthy homeowners are increasingly keen on extending downwards into basements, but the construction insustry has shown itself to be really not very good at carrying out these projects. The Construction Industry Research & Information Association (CIRIA) recognises that it is time to get involved.

CIRIA plans basement guidance to help prevent this
CIRIA plans basement guidance to help prevent this

CIRIA is seeking industry support and funding to produce new guidance on the construction of domestic basements.

Planning applications in one London Borough alone have increased tenfold in the last 10 years and the market is expected to continue to grow particularly in London and major cities around the UK, CIRIA says. The scale and complexity of the work has also progressively developed over recent years with two and three storey basements not uncommon and ever more demanding construction being planned to maximise floor space and function. 

However, the Health & Safety Executive regularly finds that these basements are not being built in a safe manner. HSE inspectors visited 127 domestic basement constructions sites during a two-day blitz in London March this year; it had to take enforcement action at 62 sites and shut down 44 of them.

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CIRIA has decided that it is time to respond to what is clearly a major issue for the construction industry. Its Ground Engineering Panel, working with representatives from the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS), is planning the development of comprehensive guidance on the design and construction of domestic basements. The proposed new guidance would draw from its previous work, including embedded retaining walls and construction design and management, as well other industry work and regulation such as the Party Wall Act. The new guidance would specifically cover the geotechnical design of walls and foundations, together with relevant associated ground and groundwater matters both during construction and for the permanent works.

Planned scope of the CIRIA guide includes:

  • The geotechnical design of permanent and temporary works and how this might be adopted in practice
  • The overall structural stability considerations when undertaking the work
  • Long-term performance considerations at the design stage
  • Understanding the impact on natural groundwater flows both in the temporary works and permanent works conditions
  • Environmental impact issues such as noise, dust, traffic, nuisance and management of waste from the site. What can be reasonably expected as suitable control measures? This is subject to local planning restrictions
  • Responsibilities of the parties to the project
  • The use of building damage criteria and the need consider the effect of movements rather than simple categorisation
  • Cumulative effects when one basement is constructed next to another or close to it.

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