Big Ben Rehab Cost Doubles

October 2, 2017

The conservation project of the Elizabeth Tower and Great Clock, more commonly known as Big Ben Tower in London, was originally estimated to cost about $38.5 million, but as crews have had a chance to look more closely at the work over the last 16 months, it has become apparent that $38.5 million comes up a bit short.

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd was awarded the pre-construction and scaffolding contracts through a two-stage tendering process in November 2016, and since then has been estimating costs for the remaining work packages.

Big Ben now needs about $81 million for repairs and additional safety equipment for workers, officials said Friday.

In a statement, the clerk of the House of Commons, the clerk of the Parliaments and the director general said: “We acknowledge that there have been estimating failures and we understand the concern of the Commissions. In advance of tendering contracts, the initial high level estimates were set at a lower level to avoid cost escalation from the market. Subsequent estimates, using better data and more extensive surveys, better reflect the true likelihood of the costs. We believe that we now have a more accurate estimate of the cost of the works and will report regularly to the committees on the progress of work.”

The processes necessary to complete the restoration are more complicated than previously thought. The condition of the stonework requires more attention, as will the re-glazing of the glass clock faces.

Crews have also discovered more utility services under the immediate grounds areas that were not identified earlier using surveys and historic records. The grounds areas will also need to be restructured to support the weight of the scaffolding surrounding the tower.

Additionally, a fire safety fund that was previously part of a different contract has been transferred to the Big Ben job, adding about $6 million more to the Tower's final bill.

And because they are British, the House of Commons and House of Lords Commissions have also decided to increase the project’s level of risk and optimism bias, saying “experience of other heritage projects in Parliament has shown that working on the Palace of Westminster presents unique challenges and the need to expect the unexpected”.

That's British for 'change order'.