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Contracts awarded for Palace of Westminster revamp

It has often been joked that the only man ever to enter the Houses of Parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes, but while he went in with a load of gunpowder intending to blow the place sky high, the building of today is in danger of falling down of its own accord.

The dilapidated state of the current Palace of Westminster, which was completed 200 years after the Gunpowder Plot targeted its predecessor, has been a major issue for MPs. They have had to be mindful of how the public might feel about billions of pounds being spent on upgrading a building associated with power and prestige. 

However, they have also been vocal across the political spectrum about the need to deal with a structure that badly needs a lot of work. Parts of the building have suffered flooding, while there have been cases of burst pipes and leaks through ceilings into MPs offices destroying constituency casework. 

Moreover, the Palace of Westminster is a Grade I-listed building, and makes up, along with Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church, the UNESCO Westminster World Heritage site.

For these reasons, there will be a major investment over a period of some years to completely revamp the building. Some of its systems have never been revamped at all, and urgent work is needed on the heating, water, ventilation, drainage and electrical facilities, all of which are very old and in a poor state.

Some electrical and mechanical repairs began in 2009, working on urgent priority issues and ensure the building is habitable until 2020, but the latest contracts are designed to go a long way beyond that. 

BDP has won the contract for the architectural and building design services to upgrade insulation and fireproofing systems, while CH2M has the contract for the programme, project and cost management services task. 

The work will see a full exploration of the building and assessment of its state, after which vast amounts of asbestos will be removed, new insulation fitted and fire safety improvements made. 

Commenting on the project, managing director of Parliament’s Strategic Estates team Brian Finnimore said: "We are delighted to be making these contract announcements today, as an important step towards our goal of preserving the Palace of Westminster for future generations. 

"We look forward to working with BDP and CH2M to ensure the Palace remains safe and secure for the more than a million people, including 100,000 schoolchildren, who visit Parliament each year."

Managing director of the national governments client sector at CH2M Jonathan Baker said: "We are delighted to have been named as the provider of programme, project and cost services for this important work. CH2M has a strong record of delivering solutions for complex and challenging programmes and we are honoured to be working in collaboration with the Restoration and Renewal Team to help preserve and enhance the use of the Palace for future generations."

The cost of the project will be £12 million over the rest of the financial year. It will help ensure that the Palace of Westminster becomes a modernised, 21st century workplace where the crucial work of MPs can carry on, not just in the chamber during rowdy debates, but in the offices where members and their staff can deal with mail and work on important issues behind the scenes. Like anyone else, they will expect reasonable working conditions in which to do it.