Why waste space in your house?
Basement car parking holds more disadvantages than advantages.
Energy-efficient architecture revolves around not only technology and materials, but equally around the functional benefits we gain across time from the design details. After all, every square foot of built-up space costs time, money and effort, hence it is important to check the implications of our ideas and decisions, to choose the most effective solution among the available options.
Accommodating car parking in a typical house site could be a good example to elaborate this point. Strangely, majority of people believe parking the car in the basement saves space, while the truth is it consumes double the space which is actually required! The ramp down to a 5 ft. lower basement needs to be around 25 to 30 ft. long for a comfortable drive, while the car itself will not be longer than 16 ft. long. So, just imagine the total length of 40 to 45 ft. we spare to park one car, which on normal ground level would not demand more than 20 ft.
Sometimes, people try steep slope to save space, which is difficult to drive in and out. Now if we look at the extra cost of executing the ramp, making it skid proof and building up the side retaining walls, the logic of ground-level parking sounds attractive.
The ramp space cannot be used for anything else but driving down, unlike the flat part of the site. On ground, if the car were to be kept out temporarily, the space could also be used as a guest space during events, buffet lunch area, kids’ play area or shaded area for plants. The sloping ramp, besides not offering any other use, also divides the ground space available into two parts which further reduces the multi-functionality of the site.
During monsoon, ramps collect water flowing down onto the basement floor, necessitating a sewage on-line pump for emergency pumping out.
Meaningfully accommodating the car parking area has been among the challenges for designers. Front garages prove this point with their limited range of unattractive rolling shutters while the ramps are even more difficult. Ramp going down the ground level, with a shutter at the entry to basement, can be an equally challenging task in developing an attractive elevation.
If parking is on ground level, the car can be placed up to the edge of the property, whereas a ramp can happen leaving the setback. This setback space gets cut off from the rest of the site, rendering it nearly useless. Even to access this area, we need to cross the ramp.
This analysis is not to negate the idea of a basement, but to discourage car parking in the basement. If we analyse expenses, advantages and disadvantages of basement car parking, we see more disadvantages than advantages. Equally well, this analysis is to suggest a methodology to be adapted when we design green buildings, where we may weigh the options for their real benefits and get an efficient building.