As reported in a New York Times article dated September 1, 2011, many rich Londoners are expanding their homes in a unique way – underground. While basements are common in the US, many European nations lack the full substructure and now the renovation and construction that is underway beneath many London homes is causing quite the ruckus.
In spite of the British law that prohibits upwards and outwards expansion (but not downwards expansion), many homeowners in the London area are replacing tons of dirt with new structures as deep as four stories. In these subterranean lairs are all of the accouterment that luxury can afford, from underground swimming pools to jacuzzis, home theaters, saunas, hair salons, waterfalls, and multi-car garages with special elevators to shuttle collectible automobiles from surface to ground.
Why build your own amenities when metropolitan London offers so much already? As Ravji Halai explains, “We’ll be able to wake up in the morning, swim for half an hour, exercise, and you don’t have to get stuck in traffic.” Halai, 54, is a building-supplies tycoon currently constructing a gym, bar and heated swimming pool beneath his home in Hendon, North London. He mentions that the house cost him $1.2 million to buy in 2007, another $55,000 to demolish and a running $5 million to plan and build the new pimped-out version.
For some, namely the neighbors to these large excavation projects, the money spent isn’t the issue – it’s the noise. “The past year has been a nightmare,” writes Matthew Wright, the popular British TV host, in London’s The Daily Mail in description of his personal encounter with “basement projects”, as they are named. He describes the process of basement construction as unbearable, mentioning that the “excavation, foundation drilling, concreting, underpinning [...], not to mention shuttering, grinding, drilling and so on,” he said, that even the best earplugs could not eliminate the noise. Wright also uses the construction as a reason to leave a job, citing his lack of rest due to his neighbor’s construction.
A London family reports that one neighbor’s construction led to the disintegration of another neighbor’s foundation – however, now that neighbor seems to be planning a basement project of their own.