Buckingham Palace to get £369m building services renewal

The government has approved £369m of public money to fund a 10-year refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, on the basis of its importance as a tourist attraction.

Essential works include replacing electrical wiring, water pipes and the heating system, which date back to the 1950s.

The project, to start in April 2017, seeks to prevent a serious risk of fire, flood and damage to both the building and the Royal Collection of art belonging to the nation.

These works will be funded through a temporary increase in the Sovereign Grant from 15% to 25% of the Crown Estate’s profits for the duration of the 10 year works, the Royal Trustees said. Parliament will hold the Royal Household to account throughout the process to ensure maximum value for taxpayers’ money.

The phased programme will be sequenced wing-by-wing to enable the Palace to remain occupied and fully operational, and allow the Queen to carry on with her official duties for the country.

Technical assessments have established that there are a series of very old (over 60 years), fragile systems with a high risk of failure that need to be replaced as a matter of urgency over the next two years (2017-19). These include Vulcanised India Rubber electrical cabling, electrical panels, distribution boards, generators, boilers, drainage pipework and data systems. Most of the mechanical & electrical services and systems are over 40 years old (some are over 60 years old) and are degrading, creating significant risks. The boilers are more than 33 years old, and spare parts are  difficult to source.

More than half a million people visit Buckingham Palace during its summer opening every year and millions more flock to its gates to see the Changing of the Guard. In addition, the Palace hosts more than 90,000 people every year, for a range of official events.

Chief secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said: “Tourists are drawn to this country because of our culture, heritage and royal legacy, and when they visit they spend billions of pounds and support thousands of jobs. We must ensure that the special architectural and historic nature of some of our greatest buildings are protected for future generations, therefore it is only right we ensure Buckingham Palace is fit for purpose.

“These urgent works have been properly costed and will ensure the Palace can continue its centuries-long tradition of being the working house of our monarch. We will ensure every penny spent achieves the greatest value for money.”

Buckingham Palace is also a working office and residential building for the royal family, as well as an international tourist attraction.

The total capital costs of the 10-year phased refit will be £369m, according to the Reservicing of Buckingham Palace Summary Report.

However, it will generate benefits of £139m over the 50-year extended lifespan of the Palace, making the net cost £230m, which equates to a £222m net present cost once inflation is taken into account.

The options appraisal report was written by a consortium including:

  • WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff  – project lead and engineer
  • HOK – conservation architect and space utilisation planner
  • Gleeds – cost adviser
  • Berkshire Consultancy – project co-ordination
  • Sir Robert McAlpine – construction adviser
  • Accurro – IT, telecoms and controls engineer.