How not to do a basement extension

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/couples-house-cracks-in-half-before-collapsing-because-of-botched-basement-dig-10109942.html
Part quote:
"Mr Goldswain, 40, and Miss Hale, 39, were extending the property in Finchley in November 2012, a year after buying it. But the builders failed to support the structure correctly and two months into the work it began to crack.
Disaster struck on November 24 when the gaps began to widen following a storm. Miss Hale said: “The day it all happened was like something out of a disaster movie. It was like an earthquake had hit. You could see the cracks widening by the second and the house splitting apart.”
The couple had seen half-centimetre cracks in the brickwork and called their builders, AIMS Plumbing & Heating Limited, who came round to inspect. She said the builder had “looked a bit worried” and put up some scaffolding between their property and the adjoining house. Shortly afterwards their upstairs neighbour told them cracks were widening in the walls."
I feel sorry for them - I do.
But I wonder how anyone could get into this position. The obvious mistakes seem to include:
1) Using a firm called "blah Plumbing and Heating" to do a seriously difficult structural modification.
2) Not makign sure there was liability and indemnity insurance in place and that it was current.
3) Was building control involved?
4) Because the BCO would likely have asked for a structural engineers report and calculations.
5) I'm going to assume the family's home insurance was voided because of irregularities with 1-4 - but if they'd phoned them in advance, the insurers would probably have made them check clerical safeguards were in place (like 2,3 and 4).
I don't trust random builders to do a doorway right without being watched like a hawk (personal experience). Certainly if I undertook work like this, I'd have the structural engineer engaged to manage the structural elements of the work and to inspect them himself.
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I feel sorry for the neighbours.
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"harryagain" wrote in message
Harry, be a good chap and set yer clock to the right time.
TIA
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On 16/03/2015 11:54, Tim Watts wrote:

But Mr Goldswain, an internet marketing manager, and Miss Hale, an investment banker, fear they will never see the money because the building firm is believed to be insolvent.
How sorry?
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On 16/03/15 11:59, newshound wrote:

Sorry on a human level that they are basically stuffed. But amazed that they managed to get into such a position.
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I'm wondering what the position of the family living on the top floor is. There's been much discussion of these basement extensions, due to the long on-going construction and risk to neighbours. It does seem reasonable that you should at least own the whole house before pulling out the rug from under it.
--
Andrew Gabriel
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On 16/03/15 12:19, Andrew Gabriel wrote:

I would have to assume the landlord's consent was given - ottherwise the lower family are in even bigger trouble.
Now, the only logical assumption I can make is:
1) the lower family are the landlords and the upper family are leaseholders;
2) They have a jointly owned freehold;
3) The lower family are the landlords and own the whole property and the upper are just renting.
1 and 2 would be extremely bad for the lower family but with 2 the upper family presumably must have also given consent for the works and bear some responsibility?
I think if I were the lower family I'd be starting a donation on "giveusaquid.com" or whatever it's called and seeing if 1/4 million people are willing to throw a quid each their way...
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On 16/03/2015 12:37, Tim Watts wrote:

There's a lot more information about this case here: http://www.bonddickinson.com/insight/publications/trouble-basement-whose-responsibility-contractor-or-engineer These are the solicitors who acted for the structural engineers.
There's no mention of AIMS having insurance. We thought of having abasement extension done in Finchley. One of our main concerns was that the builders had adequate insurance. In the end we did not build into the basement, because it simply was not worth the worry.
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On 16/03/15 18:17, GB wrote:

That is very interesting.
It seems to me that they might have *thought* the structural engineers would supervise the main works...
I think if were me, I would want to engage the engineers to manage the works or use a specialist firm that does nothing but this type of work...
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On 16/03/15 18:33, Tim Watts wrote:

In fact, this is a very useful statement:
"Homeowners need to ensure that the builders they retain have the relevant experience to carry out this type of work, in particular experience to carry out the appropriate temporary works. If they do not have that experience, the builders should appoint a temporary works engineer. The permanent works designer will not be responsible for the temporary works design unless that is specifically agreed.
What will be welcomed by engineers is that this case does not extend an engineer's duty to warn."
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Yes, or (as I have done in the past) possibly an architect who offers a project management service. Well worth the fees, IMO, to have someone who is supposed to know what they are doing, supervising the builder. And who would be carrying the can if it goes wrong.
--
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friend.... if you have one." - GB Shaw to Churchill "Cannot possibly
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Yes, my parents retained their architect for this purpose. It was also his job to approve the build at the point of each staged payment, and he put into the builder's contract that 20% would be retained for 6 months for any snagging repairs. ISTR the architect charged 8% or 10% for this service, but dad regarded it as money well spent. The builders were very good, but that might have been because of the supervision.
--
Andrew Gabriel
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On Monday, March 16, 2015 at 7:59:01 PM UTC, Andrew Gabriel wrote:

Not that many architects make good project managers, people who have trained on from trades can be more aware of the games played in construction.
Couple that spring to mind , non passivated fasteners being used deeply internal to building, stockists were out of the right ones that morning and supervising architect had never seen correct item in flesh before.
Wrong blocks used in ground floor of block and beam construction flats, too lightweight, started crumbling overnight after first floor of reinforced concrete beams was lowered on. Demolish, start again
Next block was changed to timber frame, built on site, including roof trusses, wasn`t certified, had to get certified after completion.
Third block was timber frame from pre certified timber frame kit, completed by actual Project Manager , apparently running at around 15% of build cost, new P.M. was employed by new company that took over the bankrupt half done site.
Don`t get me started on "surveyors"
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On 16/03/2015 12:08, Tim Watts wrote:

Me too. I was questioning whether they were competent to have terms like "management" and "investment" in their job titles!
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Tim Watts wrote:

6) Being in London where the ground floor of an undistinguished semi cost £345K (four years ago: probably rather more today) and people are desperate for more space.
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Mike Barnes
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Tim Watts wrote:

It may just reflect their belief in a comfort blanket of consumer protection legislation and regulation of businesses. Many in generation X seem never to have heard of "buyer beware" let alone think they might still have some responsibility for their decisions.
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Robin
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On 16/03/15 11:54, Tim Watts wrote:

http://tinyurl.com/mlfhetw
I've only heard by word of mouth, but apparently the guy wanted to extend the basement backwards towards the rear of the building and out into the yard. He left the entire rear wall unsupported despite having been told by the Council that there wasn't the necessary structural plan and being told to stop. Neither he nor the freeholder have insurance and both will probably be made bankrupt. As I say, this is just what I've been told, but obviously something went seriously wrong!
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On 16/03/15 12:28, Andy Cap wrote:

Different property (just mentioned for clarity) - but similar problem it seems...

Jeesus. You have to be really dense when the BCO tells you to stop digging and you keep going...
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Tim Watts wrote:

With a huge mortgage and nothing to show for it but a plot of land, I think I'd be starting a new life with a new name, somewhere a long way away.
Bill
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Lots and lots of basement conversions round here. Despite the very high cost, cheaper than moving to a bigger house. Most recent one was across the road, and cost well over 100k. Is nice, though - they went down more than was needed to give high ceilings.
It's interesting that it's been the same firm doing them all. Can't be the cheapest either judging by the posh trucks they have. So word of mouth works here.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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