november 2018

Two further contracts at Westminster Abbey

ME Construction has returned to Westminster Abbey – to do further specialist conversion and re-decoration works to two properties at the back of the Abbey.

Previously, ME Construction carried out a couple of projects at Westminster Abbey, including converting the Abbey’s Grade II Listed air raid shelter into an archive centre, comprising an office, a strong room and related sanitary facilities. This included the provision of new services such as ventilation, mains power, heating and lighting. It also carried out some external works to the rear of The Cannon of Westminster’s residence, at Number 1, Little Cloisters, inside the Abbey grounds. Works to this Grade 1 listed structure included demolishing an unlisted single storey extension and reconfiguring the area to form an external, paved, sunken garden using original York stone paviours, rebuilding a 15th century party wall and restoring the original timber door and window frames, as well as inserting new external doors and windows.

Since the work was being undertaken on a Grade 1 listed building, the project involved using ‘clay’ plaster and instigating a complex airflow system in order to control the internal humidity naturally.  Clay plasters, made from unfired clays and sands, are considered breathable - with excellent vapour permeability - and hygroscopic. It’s said that unfired clay can absorb, and desorb, indoor humidity faster than any other building material. Clay plasters regulate relative interior humidity between 40% and 70% - and research has shown that a room humidity of between 40% and 70%, minimises the dangers from airborne infectious bacteria and viruses. Incidentally, keeping room humidity between 40% and 60% also prevents building materials from giving off gas toxins, such as formaldehyde.

ME Construction has now begun work on two projects: a five week job at a house in Dean’s Yard and an eight week job at a property in Little Cloisters.

Both of these properties are Grade I listed – so, again, ME Construction’s teams have to carry out the work ‘sympathetically’. For example, this involves only using hand tools to create new door openings in the fabric of these buildings, which date from the early 1500s and the 1480s respectively. Among other things, it also involves using ‘traditional’ construction techniques such as lath and plaster skills – rather than 21st century plasterboard.

According to ME Construction’s specialised works manager, Warren Brown, the work in Little Cloisters involves converting two flats into one house – among other things fitting a new kitchen, two new bathrooms and redecorating the property throughout. The Dean’s Yard project also involves fitting a new kitchen, two bathrooms, flooring and then redecorating the property.

“As with almost all ME Construction contracts, we’ll have to ensure that our work doesn’t inconvenience those people who live and work in the area,” said Warren. “We’re well experienced at taking that sort of thing into consideration – as well as meeting all the other specialist requirements of the contract; doing a thoroughly professional job and finishing on time and within budget.”