Reservicing Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
Instantly recognisable as the home of The Sovereign, it is also a working building, hosting almost 100,000 guests and attracting over 15 million tourists every year.
Work is now needed to protect this historic building for future generations.
As the Royal Trustees' report of November 2016 explained, the Palace's electrical cabling, plumbing and heating have not been updated since the 1950s. The building's infrastructure is in urgent need of a complete overhaul to prevent long-term damage to the building and its contents.
The Royal Trustees are the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Keeper of the Privy Purse.
The most cost-effective way to replace these essential services, and to ensure that The Palace is fit for purpose for the next 50 years, is to undertake a phased programme of works over ten years. The programme will realise a series of long term financial and environmental benefits, as well as improvements to visitor access. The Palace will remain occupied and fully operational for the duration.
The reservicing of Buckingham Palace will be funded through a temporary uplift in the Sovereign Grant, as recommended by the Royal Trustees and approved by Parliament.
The programme commenced in April 2017 with some key consultant procurements. The subsequent award decisions for those procurements were as follows:
- Multi-Disciplinary Building Services Design and Engineering – to design the replacement services: WSP UK
- Independent Cost Consultant Services: Gleeds Cost Management
- Programme Management Office (PMO) - framework suppliers to provide industry-seconded Directors to the PMO: Arcadis, Capita Property & Infrastructure, Mace, Ove Arup & Partners and WSP UK.
Reservicing and Access
The reservicing of Buckingham Palace will take ten years and is due to start in April 2017.
The project will bring the whole infrastructure of the Palace to a condition that will deliver a fully serviceable, modern, resilient and enduring building infrastructure with a life expectancy of 50 years.
The work will introduce a range of technical improvements, such as improving energy efficiency and reducing The Palace's carbon footprint.
It will also significantly improve the visitor experience for the current half a million annual visitors, by improving accessibility for all.
The project will provide a unique insight into the structure of this historic building, and the maintenance and restoration will require the skills of many specialist craftspeople.
This presents opportunities to encourage apprenticeships through the project and the use of labour and materials sourced in the UK.
The most urgent work, which will be completed in the next two years, includes replacing the generators so they have the capacity to provide backup power to the Palace.
The very old Vulcanised Indian Rubber insulated cabling will also be replaced to prevent a fire hazard.
Once these urgent tasks are completed, the main reservicing project will involve an overhaul of all the key systems, including replacing the Palace's boilers, electrical panels, cabling systems, water tanks and pipework, as well as introducing new measures to improve efficiency and accessibility.
Costs and benefit
The programme will commence with the East Wing, which faces The Mall, rotating clockwise around the Palace to the South, South West and North Wings.
The West Wing, facing the garden and State rooms will be progressed incrementally throughout the last eight years of the Programme to enable the palace to remain open to more than 500,000 visitors over the summer months as usual.
The programme includes a series of financial, material, commercial, environmental and public access benefits.
The principal financial benefits are delivered through savings on utilities, commercial rent from office accommodation in St James's Palace and enhanced facilities fees from a longer summer opening and additional private tours.
The cumulative total of financial benefits each year on completion of the programme is estimated at £3.4m.
The visitor experience to The Palace will be improved following the construction of a dedicated visitor admissions facility.
Accessibility will be enhanced by improving access and facilities and a new learning facility will provide the opportunity to explain the role of the Monarchy and increase the capacity for school visits.
Additional funding of £369m over ten years will be required to finance the programme. The government has announced this will be funded by a temporary increase in the Sovereign Grant, the money given to the Monarch by the government, based on a percentage of the profits from the Crown Estate.
The work itself will provide a unique insight into the structure of this historic building, and the maintenance and restoration will require the skills of many specialist craftspeople.
This opens up the opportunities to encourage apprenticeships through the project and the use of locally sourced labour and materials.
The last major reservicing of the essential systems which keep Buckingham Palace running took place in the 1950s in response to damage inflicted by bombings in the Second World War.
Repairs on the services have since taken place on a reactive and fragmentary basis.
Like other working buildings, Buckingham Palace's essential systems consist of electrical wiring, heating, hot and cold water pipework, drainage and data systems.
Now, many of the services have exceeded their design life as specified by the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). This can affect how they function, their efficiency and overall safety.
An independent report has established there are long term issues of conservation and repair.
"If these issues are not addressed they will present a significant risk to The Palace."
A significant amount of high priority works need to be undertaken over the next two years in order to avoid a catastrophic failure involving fire or flood.
Services need to be removed and replaced in order to provide a resilient, safe and efficient building.
Currently in Buckingham Palace 92% of sub-distribution electrical boards are about to reach or have exceeded their design life by up to 10 years.
Over 1,900 cables have exceeded their design life and more than 130 circuits are more than 60 years old.
The age of these electrical services presents a serious risk of fire and electrical shocks.
A large portion of the oldest circuitry is located in the ornate state rooms, where considerable care needs to be taken in order to remove and replace the electrical systems without compromising decoration.
The heating pipework is over 60 years old and its valves are now in a poor condition, which could cause water damage to the building.
Over 60% of vertical drainage pipes are of original construction and are made from lead. With time this material sinks under its own weight and this can subsequently lead to failures in the drainage system.
Alongside essential work to the main mechanical and engineering services, The Palace has the potential/capability to become more environmentally friendly.
The current boilers are all beyond their extended design life and if replaced, would reduce energy consumption and decrease The Palace's carbon footprint by around 10%.
Reservicing the existing essential systems with more efficient technology should also reduce the Palace's carbon footprint by around 30%. Currently the Palace produces 1,369 tons of carbon emissions per annum.
Projected savings could reduce this total to 815 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum.
This short film shows the work being done to remove ageing and potentially dangerous electrical cabling from Buckingham Palace.
So far, some 2km of Vulcanised Indian Rubber (VIR) cabling has been replaced – equivalent to the length of 40 Olympic sized swimming pools. Installed in the late 1940s, VIR becomes brittle with age and poses a fire risk.
Find out more about the rewiring of Buckingham Palace.
A Working Palace
Buckingham Palace is the centrepiece of the UK's constitutional monarchy, the office of the Head of State, and official home of the Monarch.
Over half a million people visit Buckingham Palace every year, while millions more gather to watch the famous Changing of the Guard.
The building plays host to a wide array of royal engagements over the course of each year including hosting over 9,000 honours recipients and their guests and welcoming 40,000 guests from all walks of life to The Queen's annual Buckingham Palace Garden Parties.
Buckingham Palace's 775 rooms include the State Apartments and the Ballroom, where investiture recipients are honoured with their insignia.
The Queen hosts nearly 200 guests for State Banquets and countless receptions recognise those who have made a contribution to British and Commonwealth societies.
The State Rooms also open for the summer months each year, when over half a million tourists from across the UK and the world experience this unique building, appreciate the history and traditions of the monarchy and admire some of the Royal Collection's priceless artworks.
Buckingham Palace has been the focal point for countless national celebrations. In addition to The Queen's Birthday Parade and balcony appearance each year, thousands of people gathered on the Mall for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert and the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Throughout history, the Palace has been the place for British society to join together, such as when crowds gathered in their thousands, dressed in red, white and blue, to celebrate the end of World War One in 1918 or VE Day in 1945.
As well as a place of work for more than 300 people, Buckingham Palace is very much a family home. Prince Charles and Prince Andrew were born at The Palace and many Royal children, including Prince William, have been christened in the Music Room.
Royal weddings have been celebrated at Buckingham Palace for many years, including that of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and, more recently, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
History of Buckingham Palace
The Palace began life as Buckingham House, a smaller building on the edge of the City of Westminster, bought by George III in 1762 as a private residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte.
The architect John Nash, commissioned by George IV, developed the building into a Palace between the years of 1825 and 1840.
In 1845 Queen Victoria appointed Edward Blore to build the East Wing in order to extend the entertaining and accommodation space within the Palace.
It was he who added the now famous central balcony and new facade facing The Mall.
Reservicing works took place after the Palace was bombed seven times in the Second World War, most notably with a direct hit to the private chapel.
In 1962, at the instigation of The Duke of Edinburgh, a new public gallery to display works from the Royal Collection, The Queen's Gallery, was created on the site of the former private chapel.
The Buckingham Palace Reservicing Programme Summary Report is available to download here.
The Royal Trustees' Report
The Royal Trustees Report on the Sovereign Grant is available to download here.
The Royal Trustees are The Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Keeper of the Privy Purse.