Central Hall Westminster: a big thank you to our building maintenance heroes
Central Hall Westminster on how the building has been maintained during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many large historic buildings across the country have remained empty during the Covid-19 pandemic, a forgotten army of people have been working tirelessly to keep them alive and well. Like their human visitors, these buildings need care and attention too.
Central Hall Westminster, an early 19th-century building containing Europe’s largest self-supporting domed ceiling within its Great Hall, is no exception to this. While many event professionals have been furloughed or working from home, Central Hall’s maintenance team have been coming in since March to keep the building ticking over. By the time visitors are welcomed through its doors again, over 4,500 hours of maintenance work will have been carried out.
Since it was built in 1912 to commemorate the centenary of death of Methodist founder, John Wesley, our central London venue has always been a meeting place and has seen many famous people grace its doors including Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Winnie Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev. As an events hub, Central Hall Westminster exists to maintain the building and be able to donate any surplus to charitable works around the world.
With this comes a lot of responsibility, including for the building itself. There are many hidden areas of a period structure like this that need attention for all kinds of reasons, whether for health and safety, to keep it running smoothly and to maintain key areas.
Within the Great Hall stands an original 4731-pipe organ built by Arthur Hill and Son when the building opened, which needs to be played at least once a week by specialist staff who help the organ tuning company with its upkeep.
There are also 194 taps in Central Hall Westminster's restrooms which need to be tested each day, in accordance with Water Hygiene or Approved Code of Practice Compliance. If taps are left unused, the water becomes stagnant within the pipework, causing a risk to human health. Meanwhile, all the building’s air conditioning units and air-cooling systems must be checked and run weekly to comply with water hygiene regulations. The 96 toilets also need flushing every day to prevent stagnation of the water, and the five showers need descaling once a month under the same regulations, in addition the six cold water storage tanks that need to be checked monthly and chlorinated every six months.
Within the building, there are also numerous systems such as boilers, pressurisation units and system boards which are checked every month, and cleaning and waste management is carried out on a daily basis.
Painters and decorators have been restoring seven event rooms and repairing damaged walls, while floors in the visitor and staff areas and on the 3rd floor have been fully refurbished.
The currently empty building needs to be attended and patrolled by our security team and by the time the venue opens again, approximately 50 sacks of mail will have been handled, sorted and redistributed. The plants within the building also need to be watered weekly.
On the catering side, all the fridges and food counters need to have their temperatures recorded daily.
Last but not least, the events team has been working remotely and are now fully acclimatised to holding numerous virtual meetings including the Hall Fabric Committee who manage the building’s upkeep and welfare, Health and Safety and Environmental meetings via Microsoft Teams.
As the events industry begins to acclimatise to a ‘new normal’, putting measures in place for the safety of all visitors, it’s easy to forget who has been working silently behind the scenes to ensure this is even possible.
At the present time, staff are busy preparing for opening again whilst under Government Restrictive Guidelines for Covid-19. Old buildings like Central Hall Westminster need love, care and attention to ensure that they can host events for many years to come. In the meantime, let’s give a round of applause to these forgotten ‘key workers’ who keep our buildings going and ready for action as soon as they open again.