Cost spiral for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster

A new report has revealed the rising costs of refurbishing the Palace of Westminster, including estimated spending on rehabilitation works.

The review, by the parliamentary works sponsor, estimates the baseline cost of essential repairs to the Victorian Palace of Westminster at between £7 billion and £13 billion.

The design, habilitation and advanced works for the refurbishment alone are estimated at £850 million.

The complete works are expected to last between 19 and 28 years, which would mean that the building is fully vacated for 12 to 20 years.

But the cost could be much higher if the deputies are not decanted during its restoration.

If the House of Commons remains open until MPs are moved to another space, costs could reach £18.5billion and construction work could be extended for up to 15 years.

Based on a second scenario, where the House of Commons remains in use for the duration of the works programme, the project could cost up to £22billion, or up to 48 years.

Certain business could then only take place on “non-sitting” or “recess” days when the Members of the House of Commons do not have to meet.

This would be the case for the construction of two permanent works shafts in New Palace Yard and in Speaker’s Court as part of an underground tunnel for the construction of factories and services “ring main”.

Work to deepen the basement of Commons Court to provide additional space for factory equipment such as boilers and water pumps can also only take place when MPs are not occupying the buildings.

According to the report, if this work only progressed on “non-sitting” days, it could add up to four years to the overall renovation schedule.

The report adds that other construction activities necessary for the renovation, including deep excavation of the basement, “would pose an extreme hazard to parliamentary users or members of the public” without the introduction of additional controls.

Many construction activities would require exclusion zones for all but qualified construction personnel.

The report also revealed continuing uncertainties over the cost of repairs due to the unknown condition of the building, even after extensive investigations.

Tens of thousands of hours of building surveys to understand buildings and ground conditions have already been completed as part of the restoration program.

Last month, 18 suppliers were named to a new trade framework agreement, which has been put in place to undertake the next phase of more detailed and intrusive investigations.

Contracts worth around £10m are expected to be awarded under the framework this year.

The report notes that other enabling and preliminary works for the restoration project cover engineering and architectural design, establishment of an off-site logistics center and construction of a river jetty with associated river transport.

They further include utility diversions, the installation of new temporary services and the establishment of contractor complexes on site.

The restoration will also involve other essential repairs such as asbestos removal, fire safety upgrades, renewal of wiring, plumbing and data systems, as well as management of the backlog of conservation work in the building and improving safety and accessibility.

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