Among the top residential architecture firms in London, Scenario Architecture has built a solid reputation expanding and enhancing homes across the city. Our architects distil the ambitions of today’s homeowners into hard-working houses that express the past and look to the future. We specialise in striking interiors that maximise space and welcome natural light. The Scenario client aspires to a new archetype for London living: open, comfortable and luxurious yet accessible.
We founded Scenario with an ambitious mandate: to adapt our signature style to the needs of a growing family. We collaborate every step of the way with our clients to create highly functional interiors that make the best use of their investment. Scenario’s bespoke architecture tells the story of the homeowner, not the architects.
Our portfolio of new and heritage properties includes Scenario House, an East London terrace house we expanded in nearly every direction to accommodate the busy and evolving lifestyle of its owners. In 2018, Scenario House was shortlisted for several prestigious prizes, including the RIBA London Awards.
Your intention to convert a basement
Starting your basement conversion
We’ve drawn up this illustrated overview to help you understand each stage of your home renovation and extension. And we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help see you through the planning permission process. It deals with the ins and outs of UK planning and offers strategies for navigating the system, based on our own successes.
TipDiscover if your architect has had success steering planning applications through your local council. Visit the “planning applications” page of your council’s website and enter the architect’s name in the search criteria.
AdviceTo help you understand what it takes to obtain planning permission to convert a basement in London, we’ve created this helpful guide. Download it below.
Basement Conversion with Scenario Architecture
Working with Scenario Architecture on your basement conversion
Basement conversions have got a bad rap over the years, from households digging down multiple levels and edging dangerously close to their neighbours’ property lines. These “mega-basements”, or so-called iceberg houses, cause controversy for their deluxe features, like swimming pools, cinemas, wine cellars Turkish baths and car parks.
Building below street level can significantly increase the size of a home where conservation laws restrict expanding up and out. And new rooms below the main floor almost always make financial sense in high-value areas like London. But the more commonly sought and approved versions seek to enlarge an already existing coal hole or cellar. Even the most basic below-ground extensions will cost the same as a loft conversion, yet they’ll provide far more space for the outlay – most basement conversions in London start at about 40 square metres in size, growing to nearly 200 square metres.
Most basement conversions will require local Building Regulations approval, a sign-off from the neighbours and savvy planning. As most existing subterranean spaces lack any significant head height, most require excavation and underpinning. The height of the water table and location of sewer drains are an issue. And if the space lacks any access to light, a lightwell, an opening in the home’s entryway or glazing in the interior stairwell will need to be considered. If your basement conversion forms part of a larger all-over renovation, you can fold the assessment and application costs into your overall budget.
All that aside, converting a basement makes sense for families that intend to stay put and use it. Anyone looking for extra storage space, a separate playroom for growing children or a tucked-away space for utilities will find all these can be covered off in a single excavation. A well-planned basement can be the difference between staying in a beloved city home or leaving for the outskirts.
To make the most of your investment, you’ll want to consult an architect well versed in the local building codes and permissions protocol, and experienced in converting the vernacular architecture. If your home dates back more than a century, an architect that deals in period properties will be able to assess ballpark costs and potential risks with a single meeting. A good architect will be on hand throughout your project, overseeing quality control and serving as a liaison until the basement is properly executed.
In our clients words
Great ideas and vision to help with our substantial improvement of a Victorian terrace. In our experience Scenario’s method prioritises the final result. That may mean more professional fees or higher quotes from contractors, as they understand the exact requirements.
Great, professional service. Good drawings and models and ultimately passed planning at the first attempt with Hackney Council. Would certainly recommend!
Scenario Architecture have created an outstanding design and space that was beyond my expectations. The design was through their unique process of understanding the client’s daily scenarios and collaborating with the client to come up with a unique design. The design process is one of the most memorable parts of the process and they also stretched my existing ideas to help create this unique space. A stress free journey throughout the whole process which Scenario were indispensable by giving advice on many difficult design and build decisions.
We wanted to renovate our house in a conservation area in central London. Given this involved a complete demolition and new build with an extra floor on top, getting planning approval was always going to be tricky. Scenario did an amazing job on the new house ‘envelope’ and throughout the planning phase. We couldn’t have wished for better from them and having succeeded in gaining planning approval owe them a very big ‘thank you’.
Scenario were great at thinking imaginatively and coming up with a design for a ground floor extension that was more ambitous than other architects we spoke to. They also helped us find a contractor who was able to complete the project working within timescale and our tight budget. I would recommend for mid to large sized projects with sufficient budget to allow for full utilisation of their creativity.
- Collaborative – We start the conversation with planners early and advise most of our clients to seek pre-planning advice prior to submission of a full planning application. Our experience shows that when properly consulted and liaised with, most planning case officers will be receptive to conduct a professional dialogue, increasing chances of successes.
- Strategic – We tailor a custom planning strategy for each project based on its circumstances such as planning history, local context and specific challenging elements. We sometimes split applications or introduce minor tweaks to the scheme during the consideration period in conversation with the officers to prevent one contentious element from jeopardising approval of the main scheme.
- Professional – Our experience shows that the quality and clarity of the submission in terms of background research, planning history of the property and context, precedent and of course the arguments presented to support the case has a tremendous effect on success rate.
- Scenario based design – We start each and every project with a meticulous analysis of our client’s vision, requirements and aspirations. We do this by asking our clients to imagine their everyday scenarios living in the completed house and describe their desired interaction with it.
- Uniquely interactive - Our client’s deep involvement in the process does not stop with completion of the brief. Our design meetings are highly interactive, informal and fun.
- Designed to reflect you – Based purely on your lifestyle, aspirations and requirements and free from externally imposed concepts, metaphors and pre-conceptions, a completely fresh and unique design will gradually emerge and it will tell your story not ours.
- The decision period clock only starts ticking once the application is validated by the Council, This requires then to check that the forms are completed correctly and that the submission contains all the necessary drawings, statements and reports.
- Although required by law to provide a decision within the statutory eight weeks period, it is not uncommon for councils to miss the deadline of the consideration period, normally only by a few days, sometimes longer.
- In some cases the council may ask us as your agent for an extension of time, this may be requested due to internal reasons or as an acceptable result of a professional discussion that we are conducting with them about certain aspects of the application that they are not sure about.
- Our experience shows that planning officers respond better to projects when they feel consulted and collaborated with. We find that when we truly listen to their often helpful and valid feedback and treat them as consultants for the projects and not representative of an evil enforcing authority, they tend to collaborate well with us and demonstrate increased flexibility.
- Although the council in theory have eight weeks to consider your application, in practice they are constantly overloaded. They will only look at your application in the last few days of the consideration period. If this is the first time that they come across a scheme that they were never consulted about, our chance to secure permission for you in a single attempt is significantly compromised.
- The standard practice is for the council to consider the full planning application as submitted and then issue a yes or no decision. Case officers are not required or even encouraged to enter a discussion with us or accept resubmission of minor changes to the proposed scheme during the consideration period.