A monumental artwork conceals building work at the Palace of Versailles

Technical renovations accompany architectural restoration at Versailles

The head of French-headquartered cable business Nexans has been speaking about what the company is doing to help protect the historical heritage of the world-famous Palace and Estate of Versailles and the safety of visitors and staff.

The 17th-century palace on the outskirts of Paris is a popular tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the ‘Great Versailles’ masterplan launched in 2003 the entire estate is to be restored to its former glory by 2020 through a combination of public funding and support from businesses and individuals.

Nexans CEO Frédéric Vincent told journalists that since signing a five-year sponsorship agreement in 2007 the company has donated 540km of cables of various kinds, with a total value of €670,000 (£580,000) as well as contributing skills and expertise for the modernisation of power, communications and data networks across the estate.

Nearly a quarter of the cable supplied – 120km – is of fire-secure types from the company’s Alsecure ranges, to maximise evacuation time and minimise smoke damage to the buildings and contents if a fire should break out.

Vincent announced a new support package for the next 12 months, under which Nexans is paying the cost of a huge artistic canvas that hides scaffolding and building works while the roof and main structure undergo restoration.

Visitors are presented with a reproduction of the palace’s façade combined with a trompe-l’œil image of the gardens that cannot in reality be seen from the front of the buildings. “I am sure that associating our group’s name with an unprecedented, original work will be an additional source of pride for all our employees,” Vincent said.

The early phases of the restoration work have primarily involved technical renovation to bring the buildings into compliance with safety regulations, and the removal of all heating and cooling plant to a new location outside the palace.

The first priority was upgrading the closed-loop medium-voltage installations for the Trianon buildings, followed by bringing the Royal Opera – an entirely wooden structure – up to current safety standards.

Another major element of the work is the creation of a single power hub. New plant rooms are being created in the basement of the Grand Lodgings (Grand Commun), near the palace. This building is being refurbished to become the estate’s administrative centre, housing offices, archives, museum reserves, workshops and staff facilities such as a canteen.

An existing tunnel provides staff access to the palace building, but an entirely new technical services gallery has been constructed alongside it to carry pipes, ducts and cables.

The energy centre has two secure grid connections, provided by EDF. The primary power supply for the entire estate comes from here, as do medium-voltage back-up and low-voltage safety supplies. A medium-voltage loop installed on the energy pole integrates the Grand Lodgings building, the Palace itself and the Royal Opera.

Nexans is a company that can trace its roots back over 100 years. “It seemed only natural,” said Vincent, “to become fully involved in preserving the historic heritage by participating in this sweeping programme to renovate one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage site.”

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