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CROSS Safety Report

Basement party walls

Report ID: 361 Published: 1 January 2014 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

The client's consulting engineer had designed a new basement but, when queried by the consulting engineer for the main contractor, was unable to provide survey information for the adjoining property.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • The condition and stability of adjoining structures should be determined to make sure that the methodology of basement installation does not endanger the stability of adjoining property

  • All possible load conditions ought to be considered which includes surcharge from adjoining properties

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The client's consulting engineer had designed a new basement but, when queried by the consulting engineer for the main contractor, was unable to provide survey information for the adjoining property and made it very clear that they did not consider it necessary to know what was on the other side of the party wall. The adjoining owner's party wall surveyor's engineer told the reporter that they were well aware that this is a common occurrence.

The reporter understands that other consulting engineers have found the same situation. They consider that there are two risks:

  • Temporary works failing (including excavation with stanchion/wall falling in)

  • Permanent works failure

Expert Panel Comments

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The reporter is correct. The designer of any basement ought to consider all possible loads which includes surcharge from adjoining properties. It is also essential to know the condition and stability of adjoining structures to make sure that the methodology of basement installation does not endanger the stability of adjoining property.

Anyone carrying out such work without checking on the state of the adjoining property is also running a serious commercial risk of legal liability in the event of damage due to the new works. If the property had not even been surveyed what defence would there be? If the designer were a member of a professional Institution such inaction would contravene their code of conduct.

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