Heritage Building Profile – Westminster Palace

Heritage Building Profile – Westminster Palace

The Palace of Westminster, or Houses of Parliament as we know it today, has stood in one form or another since 1016. A planned £4 billion renovation project is due to begin on the building to bring many of its outdated elements up-to-date as the risk of fire was so great a complete refurbishment is urgently required.

Many of the most famous figures in British politics have walked through its hallowed halls and below we are going to look back on its history and as well as the job-at-hand to replace the thousands of windows in the building.

Inside the Palace

The Houses of Parliament sits on an eight acre site and was actually built in the same place as William the Conqueror’s first palace.

Inside there are more than 1,000 separate rooms, over 100 staircases and over three miles of passages winding through the building.

Big Ben – or the Elizabeth Tower as it is known officially – attracts thousands of visitors each year and the clock-face is constructed by 300 panes of glass.

650 MPs are elected to represent their constituents in every election but there are only 427 seats, which explains why so many can be seen standing on popular debate days.

Every day begins with prayers and last for three minutes, requiring MPs to face the wall until they are finished.

“Soit bail as Seigneurs” which means “let it be sent to the House of Lords” is written on every proposed new law before being delivered to the House of Lords.

Condition of the windows

There are over 4,000 windows in the Houses of Parliament which features everything from basic casements in corridors and rooms to the ornate glass panels that illuminate the endless hallways throughout the building. Many of the windows are set in bronze framework and have been in place since construction and struggle to provide adequate levels of heat insulation.

Because the Palace is a heritage site and listed building this means many of the typical energy saving solutions cannot be implemented. However, if the windows are able to be made draught proof and the framing is changed during the planned renovations then it will help to significantly reduce running costs.

Replacing and repairing the windows

The vast majority of the windows cannot even be closed properly due to the age of the framing which means each one will have to be taken out and completely overhauled. Most of the windows have deteriorated far more quickly than the maintenance team in the Palace have been able to maintain or repair them.

Due to the age of the windows every single one will need to be surveyed by specialist contractors, taken away to workshops to have some of their components replaced and then refitted back into the stonework. Access is another issue that has to be overcome due to their height and some are positioned in sensitive areas of the building that cannot be accessed during Parliament sitting times. This means the programme to replace all of the windows in the Palace of Westminster will take a great number of years to complete.

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