To build or not
The basement has many functional advantages but the planning has to be early and perfect.
European nations adapted it long before we discovered its advantages, mainly due to their climatic zoning and multi-use potentials, but now its time every city home in India considers it as an option.
There is a flip side to having a basement, water seepage being among the greatest worries. It is possible to make it water proof by using concrete walls, external plastering with water proof admixtures and such others. Yet, most people fear the seepage and just do not build the basement at all. The other bothersome issue could be the raised ground floor, necessitated due to basement ventilators. As such, everyone needs to climb up by 4 to 5 feet while in a normal house we need to walk up by 1’ 6” only.
The major criteria towards building the basement should be the family lifestyle, for an unused basement is a waste of resources and money. Of course we are not discussing basement for car parking, which lacks efficiency, but may check out if activities like home office, extra storage, home gym, home theatre, drying clothes, family entertainment like TT table, community music sessions, dance classes and such others could be accommodated there. These tasks done elsewhere would consume more precious upper floors and negate the options for other uses.
Providing basement fully below the ground floor is ideal from the cost and construction criteria, but if it is not needed, we may consider part basements. In such a case, the area with basement below gets raised up, while the rest of house can be at normal ground level, creating a split-level house. Alternatively, we may also raise the areas without basement by filling earth, thereby bringing the whole house to the same level everywhere. While the split-level house appears nice, it will affect movement of babies and elders. Levelling the house will cost extra money, though it could be worth it considering the advantages of a floor in the same level.
Reduced climbing to reach the listed needs is among the main advantages of a basement, which is just one floor below the ground floor. Alternatively, the needs may end up on the second floor where people have lesser urge to climb or may hesitate to walk the guests up through the house, thereby reducing the frequency of usage. If we consider that basements cost less than upper floors both during and after construction, they come as a cost-effective solution. These part-underground spaces are cooler than the rest of the house, hence can be appropriate for specific usages.
Basements come with functional, economical and ecological advantages. More importantly, it is always a ‘now or never’ decision. If the basement is not done in the beginning, it cannot be added later.