DBR appointed general contractor for Palace of Westminster ground assessments

DBR wins contract for intrusive surveying of the Houses of Parliament
DBR has been awarded a £903,000 contract for the next phase of surveying of the Houses of Parliament. Photo: Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal

DBR, one of the UK’s leading stone and conservation construction specialists, has been named as principal general contractor for the Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal Delivery Authority’s intrusive survey of the Palace of Westminster.

DBR (London) Ltd, to give the company its full name, has been working on repairs and maintenance at the Houses of Parliament for many years, including the renovation of Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben).

The Authority called for submissions to carry out £80million-worth of inspection contracts last year (read more about that here).

DBR is one of seven contractors that will be carrying out the latest £4.23million-worth of surveying work awarded.

The work is due to begin next month (July) and will last 12-18 months. It includes digging 23 boreholes, some reaching 70m deep, to assess ground conditions around the Parliamentary Estate. These will subsequently inform decisions on restoration work required to preserve the 150-year-old building.

Archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology will be on-site as each hole is dug to record any finds of historical significance. Previous ground investigations in recent decades have uncovered a centuries-old sword and buried fragments of King Henry III’s high table.

DBR will also oversee the inspection of 160 rooms across Parliament, with floorboards being lifted, walls sensitively drilled and ceiling panels removed to explore issues such as wall cavities, the material makeup of the building and the weight-bearing of historic flooring.

Specialist teams will continue to inspect the hundreds of miles of interconnected power cables, gas, water and heating pipes as well as outdated water and sewerage systems.

Small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) are benefitting in particular from the latest contracts, with five of the seven winners being classed as SMEs. The various surveys are planned to begin in July and will continue during the following 12-18 months.

David Goldstone, CEO of the Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal Delivery Authority, says: “Our experts are carrying out the most detailed ever surveys of the Palace of Westminster, which will be critical to informing decisions about the essential restoration to preserve our historic parliament buildings.”

DBR’s successful bid, following its appointment to the Survey’s Framework in February, will see the contractor undertake a wide range of work, including the protection of heritage assets during works as well as the careful dismantling and replacement of historic fabric to allow the intrusive investigations to be carried out.

The project team will also support other framework lots, delivering the project objectives without damaging the structural integrity of the building.

DBR’s Executive Director, Adrian Attwood, says: “We already have a long association with the Palace of Westminster, having recently completed two of the site’s most far-reaching conservation programmes: the renovation of The Elizabeth Tower and the decade-long restoration and replacement of the Estate’s 50,000 encaustic tiles.

“This has given our team a deep understanding of this treasured landmark’s specific requirements, meaning they have the unrivalled knowledge and experience to oversee such a complex task, which requires maximum care, lightness-of-touch and attention-to-detail.”

DBR will be working alongside others that are also among the most respected names in conservation construction, including AECOM, Ductclean, Concept Engineering Consultants, Alan Conisbee & Associates and James Fisher Strainstall.

The seventh contract is to the Museum of London archaeologists to record any finds of historic interest.

Highlighting the significance of the appointment, Adrian says: “We can’t wait to get on-site and start working with some of the best and most respected specialists in the business to conserve this unique landmark, helping to return it to its former glory.

“In short, we are honoured to be appointed by the Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal Programme, building on the reputation we have established through our previous work on the estate as a leading heritage contractor.”

To find out more about DBR, and its conservation work across the Parliamentary Estate, click here.