Writer needs architectural advice


Is the following feasible?
In WWII, a man owning a typical terraced house in Chelsea (say 3 floors + basement + attic) decides to build a bomb shelter underneath that basement. He finds the activity very emotionally satisfying, so he just carries on extending his basement.
The first architectural problem that arises is that the foundation walls only go down so far. What he needs to do is lower them piecemeal fashion. That is, he digs a trench (say, 1 yard wide) against the wall until he reaches the bottom. Now he adds bricks underneath.
Is there a problem here?
Towards the end of the war, the adjacent house comes on the market. Delighted, the man snaps it up, and starts digging.
Eventually he succeeds in building downwards to a depth equivalent to one and a half storeys.
He also puts in two doorways through the bearing walls between the two properties, using thick wooden lintels.
A few decades later he dies, leaving the properties (plus a sizable sum of money) to his only son. The son knew about the excavations but he had always imagined that planning permission had been obtained previously. When he has the houses surveyed, he finds out that the excavations were all illegal - and, incidentally, that the neighbours didn't know anything about them!
(He'd been away at school, then abroad in Africa, etc., etc.)
Given the son's innocence, the borough council imposes only a moderate fine, but they do order him to make the houses safe.
The son decides he would like to turn them into an hotel with a cabaret plus restaurant in the basement. He goes to a firm of architects, to ask if arches could be put into the walls, to create a large dome-shaped auditorium in the 1.5-storey space underneath the basement. (More precisely, an auditorium with straight walls but a domed ceiling.)
Expensive, of course. And maybe you don't like this plotline, anyway. But is it possible?
Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.
Regards,
Tim
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Tim Walters wrote:

Look up underpinning a foundation. Alternating smallish sections are excavated under the wall and the new supports are built. Then the remaining earth is excavated and infill supports complete the foundation perimeter. The whole point being to prevent collapse. Trenching along the foundation wall around the entire perimeter is a bad idea.
This picture shows underpinning in progress. The paint markings indicate the size of the alternating sections. http://tinyurl.com/bm4ye

If it's not done properly and you feel that death is a problem, yes.

Make them brick arches.

How could the neighbors not notice the tons and tons of material coming in and going out over what ust take years?

Why does the dome have to be added by the son? Since dad was the builder, why wouldn't he build the dome as added protection for the bomb shelter?

Sure.
R
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How could the neighbors not notice the tons and tons of material coming
in and going out over what ust take years?
Did you see the PBS documentary on the WWII escape from a German PW camp? They had to hide every bit of soil from three tunnels while guards watched.
I can see a sequence:
Digger uses some in his small yard and runs out of space; leaves some in the gutter and is chastised by neighbors; leaves some in dust bin and is chastised by rubbish men; takes some to park; takes some to Thames... TB
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How could the neighbors not notice the tons and tons of material coming
in and going out over what ust take years?
Did you see the PBS documentary on the WWII escape from a German PW camp? They had to hide every bit of soil from three tunnels while guards watched.
I can see a sequence:
Digger uses some in his small yard and runs out of space; leaves some in the gutter and is chastised by neighbors; leaves some in dust bin and is chastised by rubbish men; takes some to park; takes some to Thames... TB
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I'd like to thank all the people who replied to my post.
Answers to a few points raised:
About the trench, I expressed myself badly. It wasn't supposed to be dug *along* the wall, but perpendicular to it. Then that one-yard section would be underpinned, and the trench partly filled in again. A new trench would then be cut one yard over.
The point about the volume of earth was right on the button! The story was completely unrealistic as I had it. Even supposing Dad didn't dig out the whole area beneath the two houses, we're still talking serious soil. (Soil? Clay? Anyone know what Chelsea's built on? Never mind. I'll ask in a different newsgroup.)
The relevance of all this to the story is the dome structure at the end. It has to be pretty big, unfortunately. A typical house in Chelsea will be 30 feet wide, so the chamber is going to be located in a space that was originally 60x60 square. Don is averse to lowered ceilings for very good reasons. However, I've got to have a dome of some sort, albeit a shallowish one, so I must have the chamber height at around a storey and a half - say, 18 feet.
Converting to metric, the volume of earth is 1835 cubic metres, and a single cubic metre is so damned much. If he were talking out a couple of unnoticeable shopping bagsful every day, it would take him 150 days just to shift one cubic metre!
However, there are a number of ways the total volume can be reduced.
Firstly, he can simply not complete the task, but have done so much of it that his son can want to commission the firm of architects to excavate the rest of the site. So let Dad dig out 2/3 of the original house and 1/3 of the 2nd, and this reduces the volume to 920 m3.
Secondly, he could have built his original bomb shelter legally with planning permission from the local authority. (Given the exigencies of 1940, that probably wouldn't have been very difficult.) This could bring the total down to 600 m3.
The idea of sluicing stuff away through a convenient sewer is great! (Maybe RicodJour should start writing stories of his own.)
Suppose we have 30 days of heavy rain a year, and Dad manages to wash away 1/4 m3 on each such day, as he'd be doing this from 1940 till 1980, he can get rid of 300 m3.
This leaves him with just 300 m3, which he could take out in potted plants sold to passersby or plastic bags at a rate of 0.02 m3 per day.
Actually, that's still a lot, so I'll just have to tweak the other numbers a bit.
RicodJour also asks why Dad couldn't have built the dome. The architect who solves all the son's problems is one of the chief characters of the story, and I need him to be a genius, so Dad will just have to do a series of cowboy jobs while listening to Bach in his head.
Thanks a lot, all.
Regards,
Tim

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Tim Walters wrote:

I hear that a lot (overly-active imagination aka loose grasp on reality) never put one on paper (or typed it in), though.

Bach on the Range? Citrus base...Bach l'O-Range?
We all need architects to be geniuses - on occasion it even happens.

I like EDS' idea about discovering a Roman or other historic subterranean expanse. Only problem is that a planning commission would kill the project instantly and the archaelogists would descend en masse.
Have you read London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd? http://tinyurl.com/bnvb8 Excellent book. It would give you tons of background information.
R
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As I say, the relevance of the excavation is to get the dome. It's a plot requirement.

Actually, yes. I can lower the floor - and without increasing the earth moving problem in the illegal excavation - because it can be the son who decides to do this with legal planning permission. Another half storey would do the job nicely.
I must say it's been a real pleasure visiting this newsgroup - friendly expertise and courtesy on all sides, with nary a crackpot in sight (apart from me, of course).
Regards,
Tim
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Tim Walters wrote:

Well, assuming that dear old dad knew a thing or two about bomb shelters and buildings not actually blowing "up" but collapsing down into the basement, he probably would have gone straight down for a bit and then started expanding laterally. This would require a ceiling/roof to support the earth above. Brick arches and vaults are a natural for this anyway, so why wouldn't dad have done the work for sonny?
I realize it's a work of fiction, but getting this project by your zoning board and building department puts it squarely in the science fiction and fantasy category!
R
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Reminds me of Seymour Cray.

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brudgers wrote:

Or, my favorite, Baldasare Forestiere. http://www.undergroundgardens.com
R
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Because you're sitting at a computer, right?

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brudgers wrote:

Not sure I catch your drift, but Forestiere has been a favorite of mine since a professor gave a lecture 25 years ago on one of his pet topics (and, odd coincidence, just put out a book) titled: All Their Own: People and The Places They Build.
I didn't know about Cray's tunneling activities. I've heard of people doing all sorts of things to relax, but that's a new one on me.
R
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wrote in message

tunnel adjacent to the existing building we were remodeling. Something like that would take all the dirt and more. In the early 60's some friends rented a house that had been a part of the "underground railway" and found a tunnel that went under the city for several hundred yards until it fetched up against a concrete wall. When I was a field architect on the JFK Federal Building, we ran across a tunnel leading to what had been the waterfront. The location had been a large tavern and inn. Tunnels were probably used for smuggling. Any old city will have all sorts of strange things happening underground that have been forgotten. I'm sure that London has many more than Boston. How about an ancient Roman sewer or vault as the grade has raised some feet since first occupation. EDS
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