Basement car parks are generally a given when apartments are built. Shared by numerous residents, these basement areas allow a resident to move easily from their cars to their front door via a lift.
However, when sites are modest or the land is flat, putting in a basement car park, particularly in a home, requires consideration. “It can add three to six months to a build and the cost of a project can be significant,” says architect Donna Brzezinski, co-director of bg architecture.
bg architecture regularly includes basement car parking in its developments, many of which can be found across bayside Melbourne, from Brighton through to Middle Park. According to Brzezinski, whether or not a basement car park is included in a scheme depends on the size of the plot and also the fall of the land. “There’s no rule, but generally you need a site of between 600 and 800 square metres to include basement parking.”
bg architecture is currently transforming a heritage-listed warehouse in Middle Park into a home. On a site of approximately 600 square metres, but with the warehouse covering the entire frontage, the option was to access the building via an original roller door and provide basement car parking by means of a car stacker (two cars at ground level with a third below). On the practice’s ‘whiteboard’ are two apartments in Toorak, each the size of an average house, with each one covering an entire level. Replacing a 1960s house that was elevated above ground level allowed a good start for basement car parking shared between the two residences and accommodating a total of five cars, one space being for guests. “We still had to excavate a further three metres to provide the clearance we needed,” says Brzezinski.
Although Melbourne is going through a dry spell, when the downpour arrives, and it certainly will, certain basement car parks get flooded while others remain bone dry. “Most basements are considered ‘wet’ basements, with excess water collected by a drain along the perimeter walls. They also need to be mechanically ventilated,” says Brzezinski, who is still surprised when clients don’t factor in these requirements. “Some think that as long as there’s sufficient head room, it’s quite OK to put in an extra room,” she adds.
Having the right mechanical systems, such as double pumps, installed as part of the construction process is also imperative to ensure that water can be eliminated when rain or the natural water table seeps through. “People with basement car parks don’t always realise that there’s ongoing maintenance required, however well designed they are,” says Brzezinski.
B.E Architecture also includes basement car parks when appropriate. For a new two-storey house, with basement car parking for four cars, access is via a gentle ramp. Rather than appearing as an obvious basement car park, the façade features a bank of Pacific teak timber set into a concrete block wall. The front door is also integrated into this band of timber, differentiated only from the garage door only by the customised timber door handle. “We didn’t want the basement car parking to dominate the façade,” says architect Andrew Piva, a director of B.E Architecture, pointing out the distinctive cut limestone façade. “We designed these single large apertures on each level to ‘dissolve’ the garage door,” says Piva, who also included a traditional Japanese-style garden leading to the front door.
Piva is also mindful of the need for the highest standard of drainage for basement car parking, including several drainage points, some of which are concealed behind cavity walls. “You often need to have several ‘skins’ in basement car parks to ensure water gets away as quickly as possible,” says Piva. Other design factors extend to the ability to negotiate tight spaces with a turning circle, along with the appropriate gradient for a ramp. “Entering a basement should feel quite seamless, without being conscious that you’re descending,” adds Piva.