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Service | Basement waterproofing

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Newton Waterproofing created a bespoke solution for an east London basement.

Fed up with renting in London, design engineer Joe Stuart and service designer Lina Nilsson decided to build their own home on a tiny, 38m2 plot in east London. With a budget of just under £200k, they set about delivering Stuart’s innovative concept for a six half-floor house with floating concrete slab, designed to maximise the space into a small 83m2 home, while being filmed by Channel 4’s “Grand Designs” programme.

The Challenge

Within weeks of the project beginning in October 2015, rogue contractors had performed a disastrous basement excavation attempt contrary to the structural engineer’s instructions, leaving unsupported banks of earth falling in beneath the street and shutters bursting inwards under the weight of the concrete. This first attempt, described as “spectacularly shambolic” by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, more than doubled the cost of the excavation from £48k to £100k, and caused months of delays.

The Solution

Having already contacted Newton Waterproofing Systems to consult on the poor workmanship, Stuart and Newton soon determined that if he were to save his home and get it out of the ground, he would need a specialist contractor to actively communicate, collaborate and listen to him as the engineer and the client.

MJ Rooney Construction came on board as contractor in November 2015, and following discussions to determine exactly what was required, modelled the entire project in 4D to ensure that all potential difficulties were resolved before work began.

With the right lines of communication in place, work recommenced in late January 2016, with the first challenge being to make safe a 3.5m high bank of unsupported earth with sheet piles, before creating a new and waterproof reinforced concrete structural shell.

Innovative Engineering

With the shell of the structure in place, Newton and MJ Rooney’s next challenge was to create a bespoke waterproofing solution to accommodate Stuart’s ingenious design for a suspended reinforced slab that acted as a floor and a prop to resist the lateral pressure from the basement walls.

This entire slab rested on brackets designed by Stuart and his structural engineer, insulating it from the external walls by ensuring minimal contact, and only making contact through insulated blocks with enough compressive strength to take the vertical loading. The design also created a cavity around the slab that can be fully insulated, allowing it to be used as a thermal mass inside the building without having to insulate the entire external envelope.

Working closely with Stuart, Newton devised a solution that provided waterproofing continuity behind the brackets without compromising the structural design.

Completing the Grand Design

With a pristine below ground and waterproof concrete structure in place, complete with floating slab, MJ Rooney and Newton handed the site over to the next stage in June 2016.


Produced in association with Newton Waterproofing

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