Vox (2021) and OBF (2022) viewed the basement in London as privileged with the basement akin to a yacht in the City of London. But many flaws occur in these basement design, such as flooding issues and soil foundation, requiring reform (Vox, 2021 & OBF, 2022). Ironically, for flooding issues, there are guidelines for a better foundation for the basement, especially high-rise for parking lots and the engineering Poulos (2016) presented. However, buildings require more than flooding modification with better guidelines to build these basements to address all other issues.

Basement Foundation | Basement design

As mentioned about the London problems, there is an infrastructural foundation to consider the basements with varieties of amenities and needs for rooms (Postma, Below Grade Systems 2016). The three most crucial elements of a basement for load bearings are: “Foundation Walls,” ‘Slabs on Grade,” and “plaza decks’ (ibid, Figure 1). Professionals need to consider the fundamentals for each element for a better basement structure: “Structural Support Functions” to prevent collapse, “Environmental Control Functions” to balance “the flow of mass [like air and moisture] & energy [like heat and sound],” “Finish Functions” meeting elements of interior design, & “Distributional Functions” like power and air conditioning. Some principles to consider the extreme severity of water leakages that plagued London basements in these two phrases: “90% [water intrusion] [affecting] 1% [of total building or structure exterior surface area],” & “99%” of only “waterproofing leaks” causes “basement problems” (Postma, Below Grade Systems 2016 & Says and Hazel, 2014). For all those reasons, there are three phases to prevent failed basement infrastructure: “Investigation Phase,” “Design Phase,” & “Construction Administration Phase” (Postma, Below Grade Systems 2016).

Lastly, post-construction must not be forgotten for “troubleshooting” to ensure the integrity of the basement (ibid). To address these troubleshooting issues, what must the professionals address? The answer is simple for emerging issues: “System monitoring during service” for aging foundation, “Designing for long-term system Maintenance” on major structural problems, “Service life prediction from below grade waterproofing,” “Integration of existing systems with new adjacent (newly constructed) facilities,” and “enhancing systems in place” (ibid). Together, it is to maintain troubleshooting with discernment and possible solutions on prevention and maintenance for a basement to have a sound foundation in all circumstances.

Design Guidelines: Basement - Sheet1
This simple design overlay of the three elements summarizes the importance of design to consider loads and redesign to prevent more damage around the basements that holds the building the most _©(Postma, Below Grade Schematic Design 2016).

Basement Design

The basement needed the ­­basic design guidelines outside the foundation on how they should work. The first is the extended basement with a minimum setback of 6.0m with ventilation and stabilization to provide more space (Archi-Monarch, n.d.) The second is the sunken courtyard 3 m in depth with a “‘light well’” to ventilate and drain for the basement and more aesthetic art (ibid., Figure 2). The last seems to not consider the basement for the residence but other usages: “Storage,” Secure rooms, air conditioning and utilities, parking space, and mercantile space for radiation usages like medical centres and sciences centres (ibid.). Lastly, try to have a list of requirements that must be permanent in the basement: “Waterproofing and Drainage,” “Structural Stability,” “Natural Light,” “Ventilation,” “Access,” and “Means of Escape” (2PM Architects). The list of requirements is the foundation, where the basement requires initiative for effective design to list with basement parking as an example.

Design Guidelines: Basement - Sheet2
This sunken courtyard demonstrated the flexibility and the overall design of the basement of how open mind the design should look considering varieties like lighting, air, usage, and integration _©(42mm Architecture, no date).

Basement Parking

The other overlooked guidelines are the parking basement as a need other than an amenity but with contradiction typically at office and residential buildings that can save space like the London example (OBF, 2022, & National Institute of Building Sciences, 2019). The first is accessibility, where parking spaces for cars and vans, finishes, and Signage (National Institute of Building Sciences, 2019). For aesthetics like the materials and the graphics, they effectively provide guidance and comfort for people to enter parking lots (National Institute of Building Sciences, 2019, Figure 3). The third is to have cost-effective methods like “Life Cycle Analysis,” “Maintenance,” and “Plan for Additional Uses” to prepare for the long term(ibid.).

There are more rules to consider if the parking basement must become more secure for the consumer. The fourth is to have a functional/operational path for users with “Additional Structural requirements,” “space allocation,” “Signage and Wayfinding,” “Ventilation,” and “Parking management” for other usage and future usage to make the parking efficient and flowing (ibid.). The other factor is “security protection,” “Fire and Life Safety,” and “Drainage and Storm Water Management” (ibid.). Lastly, the sustainability of the basement considers enormous contributions to energy saving, like “lighting systems,” EV and Hybrid parking, sustainable “Construction materials,” and “Indoor Environmental Quality” (ibid). The list explains the reasons to ensure optimal basement parking lots for good maintenance and wise usage for some buildings. There are some ironic applications for some analogies of the basement usage overlaying basic design that would have to solve some flooding issues in London and other cities dealing with floods.

This picture demonstrates the pathway, aesthetics and clear path where the basement can show how its design will form the integrity of the building in the basement_©(Hotel Puerta América, 2012).

Conclusion on guidelines | Basement design

The three points have provided a sample of guidance to upgrade the basement upon the storm and the reinvention of the basement design. London and other cities cannot ignore the flooded basements with an enormous cost. Some things must change for better basements, but others can inspire the construction of basements to apply design wisdom to its foundation and design tropes. The under-researched basement has only touched the sea of knowledge to note the future of architecture to anticipate adaption without ignorance.


Archi-Monarch (no date) Basement Design, Archi-Monarch. Available at: https://archi-monarch.com/basement-design/ (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

2PM Architects (2019) Basement design guidance and advice, 2PM Architects. Available at: https://2pm-architects.co.uk/basement-design-guidance/ (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

National Institute of Building Sciences (2019) Parking: Basement, WBDG. Available at: https://www.wbdg.org/space-types/parking-basement (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

OBF (2022) Why these basements are taking over London, YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WU3643UE5E (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

Postma, M. (2016) Below Grade Building Systems Schematic, WBDG. Available at: https://www.wbdg.org/guides-specifications/building-envelope-design-guide/below-grade-systems (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

Postma, M. (2016) Below Grade Systems, WBDG. Available at: https://www.wbdg.org/guides-specifications/building-envelope-design-guide/below-grade-systems (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

Poulos, H.G. (2016) “Tall Building Foundations: Design Methods and Applications,” Innovative Infrastructure Solutions, 1(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41062-016-0010-2. 

Hotel Puerta América (2012) Underground Parking, Divisare. Available at: https://www.wbdg.org/space-types/parking-basement (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

Says, U.H. and Hazel, U. (2014) DAMP proofing vs. waterproofing: Part 2, Go to National Precast Concrete Association. Available at: https://precast.org/2014/06/damp-proofing-vs-waterproofing-part-2/ (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 

Vox (2021) The architecture trend dividing London’s Elites, YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YquWKsi0Q8 (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 


Joshua Yae Joon Park wrote about urban planning and architectural articles ranging from urban design to missing middle. After graduating from the University of Waterloo and the University of Western Ontario, Joshua has experience in urban design and planning projects in Southern Ontario.