The Queen opens the new parliamentary building Portcullis
House this morning as the Government attempts to counter what it describes
as "recurring inaccuracies" in media reports regarding the
building's cost, defects and facilities.
Portcullis House, designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners, provides
much-needed additional facilities including: 210 new offices for MPs,
two conference rooms, four Select Committee rooms and nine meeting rooms,
restaurant, cafeteria, post office, vote office and 'e.library'.
started moving in during September 2000 and occupation was completed
at the end of last year. The building has been dogged by criticism that
it is too expensive and too lavish. The Office of the Clerk has issued
a point-by-point rebuttal of these accusations. On cost it says that
unlike commercial projects, the quoted figure covers everything including
furniture, consultants' fees and VAT.
The scheme was approved at £165m plus building cost inflation,
forecast to give an out turn cost of approximately £227m. The
delay in construction of the Jubilee Line extension added a further
£10m to the forecast. The expected final cost is £230 -
£235m, within budget.
Other reasons for the apparently high cost include the fact that the
building is designed to last at least 120 years, four times the life
expectancy of an average central London office block. Portcullis House
has also been designed to use about a quarter to a third as much energy
as a similar building of conventional design. It uses natural ventilation,
makes maximum use of sunlight, fresh air, and the water in the aquifer
deep under London.
Offices for 210 MPs, and at least an equal number of staff, are arranged
mainly in 1:2:1 suites (MP: shared staff space: MP) on four floors.
Most offices are 18 sq m in area, the same module adopted by the German
Parliament for its new offices being built adjacent to the Reichstag.
Contrary to rumour, says the Office of the Clerk, the office chairs
are not fitted with a 'snooze control'. Furthermore, the reception desk
cost considerably less than £75,000, this was the cost of a 'package'
of works and there is no marble in the building, just polished concrete.
Finally, the Office tackles the question of the fig trees: "The
fig trees are neither dead nor dying, nor even unwell. They shed some
leaves shortly after planting, while they were settling in, but are
now producing abundant new growth. They are not affected by chlorine
used in the water feature, as there is none."