Essential programme to restore and protect our world-famous Parliament gets underway

Source: Houses of Parliament

By William Hallowell.

A team of experts have conducted an investigation into the condition of the Houses of Parliament, as part of a plan for “essential restoration” of the Palace of Westminster. 

Several thousand hours have been spent by over 50 engineers, architectural surveyors, acoustic and lighting specialists and ecologists reviewing crumbling stones, cracked ceilings and warping windows in the Houses of Parliament. 

It is estimated that a grand total of 4,700 hours were spent conducting the investigation in 2,343 rooms and spaces across the Palace. 

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said:

“The Houses of Parliament building is recognised the world over as a symbol of our nation, but this building requires a considerable level of care to keep it working and needs an essential programme of restoration work.  

“We must be able to justify this project to taxpayers. That’s why it’s so important to understand and map out the restoration work needed to protect the building – so that the focus is on those essential works necessary to preserve the Palace for future generations.” 

The Palace of Westminster has a wide range of ancient and historic doors that are central to the history of the nation. Restoration and Renewal surveyors are using detective work to establish materials, finish, and artistic ironmongery. They will be assessed against requirements for fire resistance, security, and acoustic properties.

Maintenance issues recorded whilst conducting the investigation include warped Victorian stained-glass windows and outdated gas, electric, water, sewage and heating pipes. 

The Houses of Parliament Renewal and Restoration office have stated that it is “falling apart faster than it can be fixed and is in urgent need of a programme of essential restoration” and that “Parliament will be invited to improve the detailed restoration plan in 2023.”

Next year, even more detailed and “intrusive” investigations will be conducted.

CEO of the Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal Sponsor Body, Sarah Johnson, said:

“The essential programme to restore the deteriorating Palace of Westminster will protect our world-famous Parliament for generations to come. 

“These critical and complex investigations are already informing our detailed restoration plan, which will for the first time set out a true sense of the costs and timescales of the much-needed work.”

The Renewal and Restoration office has also stated it will recruit hundreds of digital engineering, finance, assurance, project management and specialist heritage profession apprentices to carry out the renovations.

Chair of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, Mike Brown, said: 

“As we restore and renew the Palace of Westminster, we will be hiring many hundreds of apprentices and I am delighted to kick off recruitment of the first opportunities in specialist roles in digital engineering, heritage, finance and assurance”. 

CEO of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, David Goldstone, said: “Our apprenticeships are among the most exciting in the country, with the unique opportunity to work on the once-in-a-generation restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.”  

Apprentices will be paid at least the London Living Wage and assigned expert mentors to help them progress to full-time employment on completion. 

Did You Know?

  • The Palace of Westminster is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of most recognisable buildings in the world. 
  • The building is constructed from Anston limestone and has a floorplan the size of 16 football pitches with 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases, three miles of passageways, four floors and 65 different levels. 
  • The Palace is at high risk of sudden failure from major fire, flood or stone fall. The heating, ventilation, water, and electrical systems are out-dated and steam pipes run alongside electrical cables throughout the building.   
  • Over 40,000 problems with the building have been reported since 2017. 
  • In the basement there are 128 plant rooms and 98 risers, only one of which has been fully restored to modern standards. There are seven miles of steam pipes and 250 miles of cabling, all of which need to be stripped out.
  • Thousands of ventilation shafts spreading the length and breadth of the building need upgrading to protect against a major fire. A team of fire wardens patrol the building 24/7 to spot and manage fires or incidents which could lead to a fire, and a new water misting system was installed in the last few years.
  • It costs £2m a week to keep the building going, with the annual cost of maintenance and ongoing projects recently doubling – rising from £62 million in 2016 to £127 million in 2019, totalling £369m over the four-year period. 
  • The sewage ejector system installed in 1888 is still in use today.  
  • Hundreds of miles of cabling need replacing, more than 1,000 spaces contain asbestos, and most of the nearly 4,000 bronze windows need repair. 
  • The building contains four floors with 65 different levels meaning it is not well designed for people with disabilities and some areas can be very difficult to access.
  • There are over 11,000 historic items, including historic furniture, clocks, silver and ceramics, all of which will need to be temporarily removed and taken care of during restoration.
  • Parliament already works with specialists across the whole country, for example, sourcing encaustic tiles from Ironbridge; cast iron roof tiles from Halifax, Sheffield, and Chard; limestone from Doncaster and Clipsham; slate from Ffestiniogg, north Wales. 

Photo copyrights: Houses of Parliament


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