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Billionaire ‘Iceberg Houses’ Take Heat

Friday, August 23, 2013

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In recent years, many of London’s extremely wealthy residents have decided to expand their mansions, not up or out, but down.

However, the mega-basement excavations, or so-called “iceberg homes,” have horrified neighbors and led borough officials to propose guidelines limiting basement size.

Mansions in Kensington, London


Hundreds of London's wealthiest residents have created "iceberg homes," by expanding their mansions below ground, sometimes making room for tennis courts and car museums.

The appeal to carve below ground to make room for a few extra bedrooms, home movie theaters, or even tennis courts is reportedly inspired by rising property costs and restrictions on above ground construction.

Some of the elite owners have been digging out to make room for more than 12,000 square feet of space, adding three or four floors to their mansions. The number of planning applications for basements grew from 13 in 2001, to 307 in 2012, according to officials in Kensington and Chelsea.

Elaborate Enclave Concerns

“The subterranean enclaves have become more and more elaborate—housing everything from tennis courts to bowling alleys, theaters and even a car museum,” The Globe and Mail reported.

Neighbors—who have been watching the earth being removed from the residences—have spent the last couple of years pushing local authorities to block the super-sized basement expansions.

Referring to a construction next door, one neighbor told London’s Evening Standard newspaper, “It will certainly be one of the ‘iceberg houses’ and sadly, our house will probably be the Titanic.”

Size Limits Planned

Complaints of noise, disturbances during construction and concerns about the structural stability of nearby buildings have prompted authorities in the Royal Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea to step in.

The council voted in June to limit the basement size to one story among other guidelines, according to an official press release.

However, those proposals have yet to be approved by the Government’s Planning Inspector, and some, including basement contractors, believe the restrictions will fail.

The measures “are absolutely ridiculous,” Kevin O’Connor managing director of Cranbrook Basements, a London-based company, told The Globe and Mail.

“Basements aren’t dangerous but they do cause people to phone up and complain [to local councillors]. It’s utterly ridiculous that this is the basis of these proposals,” he told the newspaper.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Government; Home builders; Residential Construction

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