One of the major benefits of basements is allowing the creation of a single large space. This page presents some of the changing uses for basement spaces during the life of a family home.
Basements have an inherent airtightness, which is an advantage in achieving sustainable dwellings.
Basements can provide comfortable day-lit rooms, with natural ventilation and external access, as an extension to the living spaces above. They also provide the opportunity for more unique uses, such as gyms, music rooms and swimming pools. Alternatively, basements can simply provide practical space for games or hobby rooms, home offices parking or storage.
The cost of a basement, and its viability for construction as part of any development, will be determined by a number of factors including, most significantly, land value. Previous examples have illustrated how the inclusion of a partial or full basement can increase the potential floor area of a single dwelling and density of whole development, thereby yielding higher returns.
Basements benefit from the surrounding ground improving their energy efficiency.
Building regulations require 30 minutes fire resistance for the structure, increasing to 60 minutes where the number of storeys is four or more. Concrete and masonry do not burn and are the most common basement construction solution. In addition to fire safety, means of escape is also a key design consideration for basements.
A basement can be a key design solution for optimising development potential.
Good acoustic attenuation is provided by concrete and masonry walls surrounding basement rooms, by the earth itself, and the ground floor if it is built from concrete. Basement spaces are therefore inherently well insulated for sound and ideal for locating noisy activities such as music practice, home cinemas or other loud equipment that could disturb neighbours or the rest of the house.
There are many sustainability benefits associated with basements. They are energy efficient spaces where the thermal mass of the structure may be used as part of the strategy to control temperatures within the building and this is discussed further below.
Basements can be broadly sub-divided into five categories, depending upon their location, time of construction relative to the main property and depth. A brief summary of the differences, and the key issues related to each is provided.