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.
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 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.
As reservicing works take place at Buckingham Palace, thousands of Royal Collection items are being removed from The East Wing to allow for essential renovations to take place next spring. Many items will now go on loan and will be on display in Brighton's Royal Pavilion. Find out more here.
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 is expected to take ten years and began in April 2017. The main project involves 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.
The work will significantly improve the visitor experience for the current half a million annual visitors, by improving accessibility for all.
Find out how "Point Cloud" surveys are being used to help make design changes to the Palace.
The reservicing project has created opportunities to take on apprenticeships through the project and source labour and materials directly from the UK.
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 reservicing project will reap financial benefits, 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.
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 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.
Decanting the East Wing and Wallpaper Restoration
Around 3,000 fine artworks from the Royal Collection are being removed from Buckingham Palace’s East Wing to allow for essential reservicing works to take place in Spring 2019.
Some of the items will now go on display at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton for members of the public to see. Read about decanting the East Wing here.
Historic wallpaper conservation in the Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace
Watch as historic nineteenth-century wallpaper from the Yellow Drawing Room is carefully taken away for conservation. Not only will this work restore the rare, fragile wallpaper, but it will simultaneously protect it from incurring damage from nearby construction work as part of the Reservicing programme [link to Reservicing page]. Once the works are complete, the restored wallpaper will return to its home in the Yellow Drawing Room.
In 2018-19, ahead of Reservicing work, the East Wing - including the Yellow Drawing Room - was emptied of all artwork and objects. The space was cleared for the replacement of essential services such as pipes and wires to go ahead, as well as the installation of a new lift to improve accessibility.
The Yellow Drawing Room is home to some rare nineteenth-century Chinese wallpaper. Originally on display at King George IV’s Brighton Pavilion, the wallpaper was moved when Queen Victoria sold the seaside residence. After the First World War, Queen Mary found the wallpaper in storage at the Palace. It was more yellow in colour then, so it was decided that it would be re-hung in the Yellow Drawing Room, where it has been ever since.
Now that Reservicing works are underway in the Wing, if the wallpaper was left in situ it would be at risk of being damaged from the installation of a nearby lift. It was therefore decided that the wallpaper - in need of conservation anyway - would be removed, conserved and return to the Palace only once the works were done. Not only will this protect it from potential damage from the building work, but it is also a good opportunity to restore the wallpaper.
Powering the Palace: replacing the boilers
With the Reservicing Programme at Buckingham Palace now well underway, the Palace's ageing boilers have been removed.
Identified as being in urgent need of replacement, the boilers - all over 30 years old - are being replaced by a new energy centre, which is anticipated to make carbon emission savings of 300 tonnes per year.
Read more about the boiler work here.
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.