Saturday, 10 December 2016

How to build underground apartments that’s not a ‘burial ground’ - Engr. Osaz' ENOBAKHARE

Living underground saves you from the stress and headaches that the noise and buzzes of the city brings especially for those living in industrialized cities; cities that never sleep like Lagos. Research has shown that adequate noise control reduces stress levels and reduced stress levels in humans is synonymous with longevity. 

Everyone wants to live long and wealthy but living long in big and busy cities where wealth is perceived to be abundant means accepting stress as part of life. Avoiding stress and promoting healthy and peaceful living could mean living below earth but not as a corpse though. Besides, it is generally safer to live under the ground especially in war-torn or conflict-prone regions to avoid straying bullets and other forms of attacks. 

At a time when insurgency and rebellion has become a part of our society, there is no better time to tilt our line of thoughts towards the design and construction of basement apartments at least for the sake of safety and peace than now.  However glaring the benefits of underground or basement apartments are to occupants, most Nigerians haven’t been able to fully take advantage of it either because of the false fears of the cost implication of such a project or the erroneous belief that there are no indigenous contractors/builders that can construct them properly.
Underground/Basement apartment with Swimming pool
City homes and mansions without basement apartments are like jeans without pockets; they are actually under-utilized. However truth be told, a lot of work goes into the construction of basement apartments; from stopping water to ensuring adequate lighting and ventilation all day long and then working towards the attainment of all other established functional requirements; a process in tandem with the old saying that ‘nothing good comes easy’. 

Here are few tips to guide you;

Confirm that no existing laws, bye-laws or regulations bar you from putting up a sub-surface or underground apartment on that land; get a comprehensive architectural, structural and services designs that takes care of space arrangement, lighting and ventilation provisions as stipulated in the relevant design and building codes as well as other functional requirements and get statutory approvals; then, employ the services of a qualified contractor to handle the job. 
The work processes are as follows; excavate the portion of land to build the apartment using manual or mechanical methods; protect the earth from collapsing by using earthwork supports commonly made from timber or structural steel; construct the basement floor slab over a bed of hardcore and damp-proof membrane using suitable materials like stainless steel or reinforced concrete of appropriate mix. Construct the external walls of reinforced concrete or solid blocks/bricks and depending on the water table, fix a damp proof membrane over the wall surface and blind properly to stop water ingress and insert a damp proof course to stop water capillarity (upward); allow for openings at surface levels according to the design and ditto for all other works. Only special finishing materials designed for basement structures should be used and care must be taken not to trap workers inside the earth or allow them suffocate in the process of constructing. 

The cost of constructing a basement structure is not always exceptionally high. For instance, from industry estimates, a budget of 4 Million Naira can complete the construction of a room self-contain basement apartment in the Lekki-Ajah axis of Lagos (an area with generally poor soil conditions and high water table); only a 55% increase from the cost of constructing the same structure on a surface level in the same area. On the mainland where the soil conditions are relatively better, the cost is pretty lower (down by about 30%). Interestingly, for Estate developers, building sub-surface studio apartments is an added advantage in the market. By and large, the advantages of underground rooms are far beyond mere additional living spaces on the same plot. 

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