Queen’s Centre project starts taking shape

Rising inflation levels in construction industry ‘biggest concern’ for project’s budget, says Browne

The original projected budget for the Queen’s Centre’s of $230 million is still realistic, according to Ann Browne, associate vice-principal (facilities).
The original projected budget for the Queen’s Centre’s of $230 million is still realistic, according to Ann Browne, associate vice-principal (facilities).
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Queen’s Centre construction is on schedule and on budget, said Ann Browne, associate vice-principal (facilities).

“We’re still looking towards all of our dates as they were,” Browne said. Phase One of the Queen’s Centre project is projected to be completed in September 2009. For the construction work currently underway, Browne said, the project is ontrack.

“Right now we’re still basically in a situation where weather could be against us. But overall we’re working to our schedule of September ’09,” she said.

“The snow went away this week and we can actually see what it looks like—and it looks great.” Browne said construction workers were able to work on the project well into the winter—an unexpected advantage.

Concrete work and landscaping will begin on University Avenue by April or May, weather permitting. The University Avenue project should be finished in August, Browne said.

The underground garage at Tindall Field should be completed by the end of August. Blasting should be done within the next two weeks. Because dynamite can’t be used in certain areas, workers will begin using jackhammers to pound the concrete out.

Browne said the University meets with PCL, the construction company working on the Queen’s Centre, every week.

Browne said the project’s original projected budget—$230 million—is still realistic.

“That total number is not changing at this point in time,” she said.

“As in any large construction project, there are always budget concerns. We constantly have to monitor the budget numbers.” Browne said it’s important to keep track of the market.

“The biggest concern that we have is the inflation factor,” she said. Earlier in 2007, inflation within the construction industry was at 0.5 per cent per month. In October, November and December, however, it rose to 2.8 per cent per month.

Inflation in the industry can be determined by the availability of labour and the cost of materials, such as steel and concrete. Browne said the price of stonework, for example, has gone up significantly in the past couple of months.

“We were expecting a certain number and it came in at 40 per cent higher,” she said.

“We are on top of our budget all the time. … It’s a daily event for us, quite frankly.”

Project Controller David Crabb and Construction Director Jacques Sauve track the budget daily, she said.

“We’re monitoring as best we can at this point in time.”

The cost of a construction project could be affected by factors such as contaminated soil, unexpected rock and ownership changes among contractors.

Since last December, Browne has been working with PCL, architects and cost consultants to identify potential savings on the project. The process, called “value engineering,” involved a review of flooring materials, electrical and lighting needs and surface types on walls.

Because the University used a construction management program for the Queen’s Centre rather than a fixed price contract—where the original cost of the project doesn’t change, regardless of changes to construction made by architects—value engineering has played an important role in the process.

“There’s no change to program and no change to the integrity of the project itself through value engineering,” Browne said.

She said the University now knows what things should cost and who will be working on different aspects of the Queen’s Centre. All the tenders for Phase 1 have been awarded, including those for the swimming pool and varsity gym.

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