Builders face complicated project of saving the Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster has not had a major renovation of its mechanical and electrical services since it was built in the mid-1800s, leading to growing risk that a catastrophic event such as a major fire or incremental system failures will lead to the building being uninhabitable.

As there is universal agreement among all the experts whom Parliament has consulted that the risk of a major failure is unacceptably high, MPs have now backed full decant to let builders ‘save’ the Palace.

In a report published on 8th September, the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster decided that the best and cheapest option was to get the work done as soon as possible, meaning parliament need to sit in temporary accommodation for a few years.

Consultants estimated that if both chambers move out, a full repair job can be carried out in six years, and cost between £3.5 and £3.9bn. The project is so complicated, it is envisaged that work could start no sooner than 2023.

People who work at the Royal Palace currently will be familiar with flooding, power failures, fire hazards, freezing-cold rooms in the winter and boiling-hot offices in the summer. These problems are due to the age of the building’s M&E services. Many of the systems reached the projected end of their lifecycles in the 1870s and 1980s.

There are five main streams of work which will need to carried out in the Restoration and Renewal Programme. These are:

  • Complete replacement of the Palace’s M&E systems
  • Dealing with the huge amount of asbestos present throughout the building
  • Installing proper fire compartmentation and other fire safety measures
  • Improving accessibility by bringing the building into conformity with modern standards of disabled access
  • Conserving the historic fabric of the building

The programme will present significant opportunities to engage with small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the UK, especially those with specialist skills in the heritage and conservation sector. Apprentices and other training schemes could also be delivered as part of the R&R Renewal Programme, in order to provide a lasting legacy of skills.

Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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