Property Collapse in Chelsea. Why let a good headline get in the way of the facts?
Many national newspapers and the construction press reported this week ( w/e 6th Nov 2020) the collapse of a building that took place overnight in Durham Place Chelsea with some of them stating the construction of a basement by a London based contractor Kapital Basements was the cause or possible cause.
Upon checking Kapital’s website and social media pages, you can read a statement from the company that clearly states they were working on a basement on an adjacent property and, unfortunately for them, their company hoarding is featured in many of the published photos for the collapse. The contractor working on the collapsed properties is unknown at present, but the collapse is the subject of a HSE enquiry that will no doubt result in a prosecution when completed.
Kapital Basement gave the following statement
‘We understand that various media organisations are reporting that KAPITAL BASEMENTS LTD is the contractor undertaking a ‘mega-basement’ construction at 2-3 Durham Place which allegedly has caused the collapse of the property. These reports could not be further from the truth as KAPITAL BASEMENTS LTD has never worked or had any interest on the named property as can be seen from the circulated pictures and public records. The collapsed building was being refurbished by a company of whose identity we are not aware of.
We are shocked and staggered that the media has simply decided to attribute without any ‘fact checking’ the collapse of the property to the construction of a basement and named our company in the process. A quick search of public records such as RBKC Planning Portal will reveal that there was not even a basement to be constructed under the property which collapsed. It’s a shame no-one saw fit to await the outcome of an investigation, which we are confident will reveal the above ground works as the cause of the incident.
The media reporting over the last couple of days has and will have, without a doubt, a major adverse impact on our company and the rest of the basement industry.’
ASUC sought to fact check the whole debacle
Kapital Basements were not working on the collapsed property.
ASUC spoke with a Director of Kapital to show our support for them at this time (even though they are not in ASUC membership) and they have furnished the HSE with their previous concerns over the adjacent works, including photographs to support their concerns.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s (RBKC) planning portal shows the cross section of the plans which, whilst showing an extension with steps attached to the current sub floor level, does NOT show any basement construction for the property.
It suggests that two properties were, or are, being converted into one large property, requiring demolition of some internal walls.
RBKC only allow single storey basement construction on domestic properties following a planning change 2/3 years ago.
ASUC members and others competently carry out basement retro fit construction in most London Boroughs without incident and offer a 10-year Latent Defects Warranty for their works. ASUC are only able to do this because of the rigorous vetting process for members on application and the ongoing audits on member companies covering Health, Safety, Training, and Technical issues, which are currently being accredited to UKAS standards and BS 17065. The ASUC membership includes many Associate members who operate as Engineers for temporary works, waterproofing and similar allied services.
Retro fit Basement construction in Grosvenor Estates can only be carried out by members of ASUC because of the rigorous processes.
Keyboard warriors quickly took to twitter to jump on the anti-Basement bandwagon, led by the National Press, misrepresenting how and what caused the collapse. Professional keyboard warriors on LinkedIn soon followed suit, albeit some more restrained than others.
What is clear is that a good headline and photograph steers people’s minds to speculate the cause without fully investigating the story and the facts, which can cause untold damage to the Basement industry without justification.
ASUC continue to promote good practice, high levels of competency, audit our members to a high standard so that the risk of these kind of events is minimised. Can we prevent it from happening with one of our members? No, of course not, but if we can minimise that risk and ensure that the correct insurances and warranties are in place with the audit regime, we can continue to retro fit basements without incident as we have done to date.
ASUC – The trade organisation for Subsidence and Underpinning Repairs, Retro fit Basements and Engineered Foundations.