The Elizabeth Tower conservation project marked a major milestone yesterday, when the final piece of the scaffolding enclosing the 96m high building was slotted into place.
To celebrate the occasion the team welcomed a host of guests for a traditional ‘rooftop’ topping out ceremony.
Hailing the scaffold “an absolute masterpiece of engineering”, The Director General of the House of Commons, Ian Ailles thanked the team of experts managing the huge task of restoring the Grade I listed building to its former glory.
“The steel structure encasing the Elizabeth Tower consists of nearly 24,000 elements, weighs 800 tonnes and has taken just over a year to complete.
“Despite a complex programme and challenging weather conditions earlier this year, we are on schedule, to the credit of all those working on this much-loved landmark and we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Tower.”
Michael Coleman, Operations Director for Sir Robert McAlpine Special Projects, said the safe and successful completion of the scaffolding reflected the team’s collaborative approach and “the absolutely fantastic efforts of every single person involved in the Elizabeth Tower restoration project to date”.
He continued: “We are here proudly restoring Britain’s heritage. We are making certain that the Elizabeth Tower exists for generations to come. It is absolutely iconic and I think we are all extremely privileged.”
Paul Heather, Sir Robert McAlpine Managing Director, London, said:
“It’s great to see the tremendous progress being made by the fantastic team we have here. There’s an extraordinary sense of pride amongst all those working on this inspiring project, which is a showcase for engineering excellence, diversity and people development.”
Sir Robert McAlpine Chief Executive Officer, Paul Hamer, added:
“As one of Britain’s most iconic buildings, it is a privilege to be entrusted with the preservation of the Elizabeth Tower. We are proud to help keep this landmark a centrepiece of our country’s rich heritage through our skills and technical excellence and celebrate this milestone in the conservation work.”
The Elizabeth Tower, popularly known as Big Ben, is now into the second year of what is the most significant programme of conservation works in its 159-year history.
A hugely complex project, combining the latest construction techniques with traditional conservation skills, work includes conserving the stonework and cast-iron roof, as well as dismantling the Great Clock piece by piece, with each cog examined and restored. The four clock dials will be carefully cleaned, the glass replaced and the hands conserved.
Conservation is required to:
- Repair problems identified with the Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock, which cannot be rectified whilst the clock is in action
- Conserve significant elements of the Tower, as designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin
- Repair and redecorate the interior, renew the building services and make improvements to health and safety and fire protection systems
- Improve energy efficiency to make the Tower more environmentally friendly.
Image credit: © UK Parliament/Mark Duffy