The Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament is in dire need of renovation and repair, including the removal of asbestos materials.
The Palace is a Grade 1 listed building and parts of it date back almost 600 years ago. Unsurprisingly, there is a huge amount of asbestos present within the structures. Due to its fireproofing properties, asbestos was widely used in building work before its devastating effect on people’s health became public knowledge. Asbestos was finally banned from use in the UK in 1999 and so any building constructed or renovated prior to 1999 could contain asbestos materials in some form.
Independent studies of the Palace of Wesminster have shown the state of the building and the need for repairs to be carried out. There are major fire risks and parts of the roof could collapse.
A decision must now be made as to how best to carry out the repairs. If MPs and peers remain in situ as the work is carried out, the required remedial works could take over 30 years to complete and cost between £5 and £7billion.
Another option is for the MPs to move out while work is carried out on their sections, with a view to moving back in whilst peers move out for their sections to be renovated. The cost of this is estimated to be around £4.5billion.
Alternatively, the cheapest and quickest option would be to completely vacate the site, relocating everyone to a temporary location while the work is done. It is estimated that this would take around 6 years and cost just under £4billion.
Earlier this month, experts told the committee formed to make the decision that staying in the premises whilst the work goes ahead would be risky, advising them to completely vacate the building. Hugh Feilden, Chair of the Conservation Advisory Group, Royal Institute of Architects advised; “Don’t underestimate the impact of asbestos in this building. As soon as you open up a void and find asbestos you then have to stop everything, tent up, and make it safe. If you’re doing that bit by bit it really slows the process down”.
Not only could asbestos slow down the renovations and increase costs, it could endanger workers’ health. Whilst an asbestos condition such as asbestosis requires heavy exposure to asbestos, the incurable asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma can develop in sufferers after light exposure. Some mesothelioma sufferers report only having walked past asbestos removal sites years before being diagnosed with the deadly condition.
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