Queen’s Centre contract review to save millions

University hopes to get budget back on track

Two passersby peer into a pit outside Gordon Hall. Union Street west of Clergy is closed for the rerouting of services.
Two passersby peer into a pit outside Gordon Hall. Union Street west of Clergy is closed for the rerouting of services.
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The bad news is the Queen’s Centre will no longer have industrial elevators in its final design. The good news is, by cutting back on ornamental details such as hand railings, the University has been able to shave several million dollars off the total cost of the project.

Phase One of the Queen’s Centre has undergone construction management, which means all components of the project were reviewed to identify savings where possible.

The review includes flooring materials, electrical and lighting needs, elevator sizes and mechanical requirements and surface types on walls in various rooms.

Ann Browne, associate vice-principal (facilities), has been working with architects, cost consultants and the project’s construction manager, PCL, to identify potential savings since December—a process called “value engineering.” “You look at the cost of something and you can take it down to face value. Or, you can start looking at it and breaking it down,” Browne said.

“What you want to do is not change the integrity of the building … you don’t want to change the quality … so you don’t want to put in a light fixture that lasts two years instead of 10.”

Browne stressed that value engineering won’t change the look and feel of the building.

“That’s really important. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘We have this beautiful ceramic everywhere—let’s put in vinyl instead,’” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, quite frankly. What else can we do? What can we do different? What can we change that no one will notice?”

Browne and her colleagues have looked at a total of 292 items in the plans for Phase One and have identified $6.9 million in potential savings on the project.

Browne said she hopes to save $8 million, adding that some of those savings will transfer over to the next phase of construction.

For example, if a certain type of flooring is chosen in Phase One, it will likely be used in Phases Two and Three.

At this point, though, the numbers are merely estimates of savings. For example, a number of doors in the Queen’s Centre were set to be eight feet tall, but the average door is only seven feet tall. By reducing the height of the door to the average seven feet, the University saves money on the door itself, as well as on hardware such as hinges. In an e-mail to the Journal, Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), said the Board of Trustees agreed to conduct this review when they approved the first phase of the project in December.

“In the fall of 2006, the University received revised estimates from the cost consultants for the Queen’s Centre project that suggested that escalation (inflation) within the construction industry was well ahead of their earlier projections,” Simpson wrote.

They realized the cost for the first phase of the Queen’s Centre could be significantly higher than budgeted.

For most construction projects, a fixed-price contract is tendered, which means the original cost of the project doesn’t change regardless of changes to construction made by the architects. But cost consultants advised the University that they could expect to receive contract bids well in excess of the budget if they used a fixed-price contract.

Simpson said in many cases architects initially select high-cost products for certain aspects of the building, but there are alternatives in the same range of quality at significantly reduced costs.

He said the final numbers for Phase One will not likely be known until September. “We anticipate that by September we will have a clearer idea of total savings made, and the extent to which we have been able to keep Phase One within budget.”

Upon completion of Phase One, a similar review will be conducted for Phases Two and Three.

Simpson said Queen’s Centre construction is currently focused on redirecting underground services, such as sewage and storm water, from underneath Clergy Street.

“This means that these services will go around the site, so are being moved under Division Street, Union Street and University Ave,” he said.

Browne said the Queen’s Centre website is updated every time there is a change regarding road closures.

“We’ve been very linked with [the city] all the way through this,” she said.

The excavation of the main site, which is located between Clergy Street and Earl Street, is expected to begin within the next few weeks.

Scratching and saving

$610,000—switching from industrial loading elevators to conventional elevators
$400,000—taking ornate metal railings out of stairwells
$350,000—choosing different flooring
$20,000—modifying a parapet

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