As the skies light up in technicolour explosions for Guy Fawkes night this week, and we write our names into the night with sparklers, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the Houses of Parliament themselves. From the design, planning and project management and even to the construction delays and cost overruns that shaped the hallowed halls of democracy, it proves that the conditions for construction claims can happen to anyone.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.

Planning an iconic building

Over the last 400 years, Guy Fawkes night has become a legendary moment in time when on 5th November 1605 the conspiracy of former soldier, Guy Fawkes, to blow up the Houses of Parliament was thwarted.

However, the building that Guy Fawkes was so determined to level was a predecessor of the magnificent one that we see on the banks of the Thames today. In fact, while he might not have been successful in its demise, it was still plagued by a catalogue of fires throughout history that necessitated its reconstruction in 1835.

As you might imagine, the design and construction of this celebrated palace came about with much pomp and circumstance, and not a little discussion. A Royal Commission was appointed to study the rebuilding of the Palace and a heated public debate over the proposed styles ensued.

Finding the right architect

The neo-classical style, similar to that of the White House in the United States, was popular at the time. However, as that style was associated with revolution and republicanism many preferred a Gothic revival approach, which was felt to embody more conservative values.

Even so, in 1836, the commissioners organised a public competition to design the new Palace with either of these styles in mind. They received 97 entries, each identifiable by a pseudonym or symbol. While they whittled the entries down to four, the commissioners were unanimous in deciding on entry number 64 which bore the emblem of the Portcullis. It was the entry submitted by Charles Barry, who had proposed a Gothic-styled palace in harmony with the surviving buildings.

Construction delays can happen to anyone

While Barry was clearly a master architect however, his skillset doesn’t appear to have extended to cost estimating or planning. He estimated that the construction time would be six years at a cost of £724,986 (the equivalent of a terrifying £70,206,076 today), various construction delays meant the project in fact took more than 30 years at a cost of over £2million (that’s a cost overrun to £193,675,675 in today’s money) to complete.

Now, as far as we’re aware no one attempted to raise the idea of a construction claim at the time, and in the end the result is an iconic building (even if it is subject to ongoing repair work) that UK is privileged to have. However, it does show that even with the best minds and access to the best resources money can buy, construction delays and cost overruns can, and do, happen to anyone.

Contact Tungsten Capital to help prevent and handle construction delays and claims notices.