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Going Underground - Report Finds Basements are the New Loft Conversions

By Maurice Shasha  //  Mon 26th July 2021
Disputes among famous householders over basement conversions are often in the news - the one between Robbie Williams and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page lasted five years. But in reality, most basements are built for middle class professionals, a new study has found. And they are set to become as popular as loft conversions.
Basement games room
The study looked at more than 7,300 building projects, approved by planners in London’s 32 boroughs between 2008 and 2019. Kensington and Chelsea saw the highest number of basement conversions at 421, followed by Westminster, Camden and Richmond upon Thames.  

According to the study’s author, professor of cities at Newcastle University, Roger Burrows, rising house prices in the capital have encouraged householders to build down, maximising the value of their homes. “What we’ve seen is a normalisation of single-storey basements as the 21st-century version of the loft conversion,” he said. 

When it comes to how people use their basements, the report found 532 swimming pools, 814 cinemas, 1,695 gyms, 689 wine cellars, 607 games rooms and 342 saunas in the conversions studied. Libraries, music rooms and art galleries also featured as did staff quarters. 

The study found the combined depth of the developments equalled 15.8 miles and estimated that more than 1.782m cubic metres of earth was excavated from beneath the capital in their construction, 12 times the volume of St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Meanwhile, environmentalists have raised concerns that underground construction is adding to the risk of flooding. On Monday 12 July, Queen guitarist Brian May posted on Instagram about flooding to his Kensington home, which destroyed furnishings and memorabilia. He attributed it to the number of deep basements in the area. 

Mary Dhonau, an independent flooding expert, said: “I hope that Monday night was a stark reality check for planners. We should not be excavating huge basements and displacing soil that we need to percolate rain, especially in built-up areas.” 

Read more on this story in the Guardian

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