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'Significant progress' made in plans to modernise Birdcage Walk HQ

IMechE president Peter Flinn

IMechE president Peter Flinn gives an update on plans to refurbish the Birdcage Walk HQ
IMechE president Peter Flinn gives an update on plans to refurbish the Birdcage Walk HQ

I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress in our proposal to refurbish Birdcage Walk since Terry Spall wrote about our plans earlier this year and have begun a thorough consultation on this proposal through a series of webinars, and online feedback.

Feedback from an initial canvassing of Trustee Board, Council, Past Presidents and Young Members Board in 2020 indicated a strong attachment to Birdcage Walk and a desire to keep it as our headquarters. 

On this basis, we developed the proposal outlined below as that which would have the best chance of securing the 2/3-member approval needed in any vote on the future of our headquarters. The building is 122 years old and like many old structures it needs extensive refurbishment and modernisation, estimated to cost around £16m. 

The proposal aims to modernise Birdcage Walk to create a showcase for mechanical engineering and ensure the building will continue to contribute to our enduring positive engineering impact. Located in the heart of Westminster, it is strategically situated to allow us to maximise our impact on government and society at large.

The building is owned by the charity, and our Real Estate Strategy Group (RESG), headed by trustee Helena Rivers whose expertise is in the heritage building sector, has looked at options for the building. 

It is not immediately obvious, but our HQ comprises broadly two parts: 1 Birdcage Walk (including 1, 3 and 5 Storey’s Gate to the rear) and 3 Birdcage Walk (including 8-12 Old Queen Street to the rear). Almost all areas used by members, including the library, lecture theatre, reception, and the main meeting rooms, lie within 1 Birdcage Walk. No 3 Birdcage Walk mainly comprises staff offices and space leased to other organisations. 

RESG’s strong recommendation is to sell a 250-year lease of 3 Birdcage Walk to provide funds to refurbish 1 Birdcage Walk, and hopefully also generate a cash surplus. This proposal has the backing of our Trustee Board, Finance Board, Audit and Risk Committee and Strategy Committee.

Using space more efficiently will enable us to accommodate all staff space and member areas within 1 Birdcage Walk without any need for 3 Birdcage Walk. 

The proposal aims to achieve the following priorities: 

Creating a showcase for mechanical engineering – we want to make members and the public feel welcome. We plan to have a dedicated members’ lounge next to the library and exhibition space in the entrance area. 

Making the building accessible to all – this includes building a ramp for wheelchair users adjacent to the main entrance and a new lift accessing all floors.

Make the building low carbon – we will make it as low carbon as is possible for a heritage building. We will eliminate gas-fired heating and install low-carbon services.

Details of the plans are in the members’ area of our website. If you have any comments, please contact the Real Estate Strategy Group at birdcagewalk@imeche.org

We are currently in the process of consulting and will listen to your feedback before deciding on the next steps. 

These next steps will be either a poll to gain further member feedback or proceeding to a formal vote.

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