It has been an enduring symbol of democracy since the 19th century, but the UK parliament is collapsing, producing a bill that catches the eye and urgent calls to fix it.
Officials on Friday detailed thousands of issues with the historic building, from cracks in the stone and water damage to outdated electrical and mechanical systems.
“Despite a maintenance program, it is collapsing faster than it can be fixed and is in urgent need of a much needed restoration program,” House of Lords Speaker Natalie Evans said.
The range of flaws has been recorded by dozens of engineers, architectural surveyors and other specialists who have spent a total of 4,700 hours investigating the more than 150-year-old Palace of Westminster.
Built in the mid-19th century, it houses the British Parliament, the Lower House of Commons for elected MPs and the unelected Upper House of Lords.
At the north end of the Royal Palace, towering above the River Thames, sits Big Ben, the nickname for the striking large clock bell atop Elizabeth Tower.
Big Ben, with its distinctive chime and “bangs”, has undergone its own expensive renovation in recent years.
The latest survey is seen as a key step in the planned restoration and renewal work of the UNESCO World Heritage site which has been repeatedly delayed and is not expected to be submitted to lawmakers for approval until 2023.
The estimated cost of a large-scale overhaul – priced at $ 4.3 billion (€ 5.1 billion, $ 5.9 billion) several years ago – has left lawmakers reluctant to approve the works.
“The Parliament building is recognized around the world as a symbol of our nation, but this building requires a considerable level of care to keep it in working order and requires an essential program of restoration work,” said the head of the House of Commons, Jacob. Rees-Mogg.
“We must be able to justify this project to taxpayers,” added the deputy, who is in charge of government affairs at the hemicycle.
“This is why it is so important to understand and plan the restoration work needed to protect the building – so that the focus is on the essential work needed to preserve the palace for future generations.”
Inspectors combed 2,343 rooms and spaces during the parliamentary recess this summer and while MPs attended their party’s annual conferences in September and October.
They discovered problems with many of the building’s historic features, including the original Victorian-era stained glass windows that warp and sag with age.
They also encountered “miles of obsolete and intertwined gas, electricity, water, sewer and heating pipes” in a huge basement.
“Work has also been done to understand the provenance of original candles and gas light fixtures, some of which were found to have been returned when converted to electricity over 100 years ago,” said the parliamentary body responsible for restoration and renewal.
“Further investigation is underway, but it is believed that the palace may contain the oldest gas lighting system still in use in the world.”
In addition, the team also studied and recorded several remarkable candle chandeliers that survived the great fire of 1834 that destroyed the original medieval palace built on the site.
Further detailed investigations, including polls “intrusive” in its structure, will be carried out in the coming months “to continue to build the most detailed dossier of the palace ever created”.
More than 40,000 issues with the four-story building, constructed of limestone and boasting a floor plan the size of 16 football fields, have been reported since 2017.
Officials previously noted that there is a high risk of sudden failure due to a major fire, flood or rockfall, with the annual cost of maintenance and ongoing projects having recently doubled. from £ 62million in 2016 to £ 127million in 2019.