The stainless steel facade for New Plymouth's Len Lye Centre has come in on budget despite opponents' fears that a cost overrun was inevitable.
New Plymouth company Rivet will fabricate and install the interlocking stainless steel sheets curtaining two sides of the centre for $2.3 million.
The most distinctive part of the building, it was also the most complicated component and the different cost estimates to construct it were thought to be the main reason for the wide variation in project tender prices.
Clelands Construction won the contract with a price of $12,880,739, which included upgrade work to the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. The Taranaki Daily News understands the two unsuccessful bids were $16.7m and $21m.
Additional earthquake strengthening to the gallery and a negotiated $1.5m extra for the fitout of the Len Lye Centre means the total budget for the project is now $16,928,777.
Yesterday New Plymouth architect and centre critic Terry Boon said he did not believe that the facade, as he had seen on the original drawings for the centre, could be built for $2.3m.
"All the information I had was it was about $5m to $7m," he said.
It is believed Rivet will make each of the 20 massive panels in four pieces and Mr Boon acknowledged this would enable them to reduce costs.
Without knowing the exact specifications of the sheets, he said he was unable to comment on whether the $2.3m figure was realistic.
New Plymouth District Council infrastructure general manager Jim Willson acknowledged that changes had been made to the building's original design specifications.
However, the height, floor area, rooms and facade of the building were "non-negotiable" and would not be sacrificed.
"There are a hell of a lot of experts out there as you know." The whole project team - the architects, quantity surveyors, the building contractors - are meeting every two weeks.
"There is a constant battle to see the alterations and what changes may or may not happen and if we do something that is going to cost money, we have to save money somewhere else.
"It is a continual battle but we are driving this thing to that budget," Mr Willson said.
Of the $16,928,777 project, the $5,428,777 for the work on Govett Brewster Art Gallery is coming entirely out of the district council's deprecation fund.
Councillors had always promised no ratepayer money would be spent on the construction of the Len Lye Centre, but to date only about $8.7m of the original $10m budget has been raised. Councillors have already promised to underwrite half the centre's $1.5m fitout which has pushed the building's budget to $11.5m.
The foundations for the centre are being laid.
Last Thursday New Plymouth District Council candidate and former lawyer Len Clifford told Grey Power members the new council should immediately halt the construction of the centre. "They said it's a done deal. A good lawyer never says that. You never say die until you have explored all options for the client, and my client, in this case, would be the ratepayer," he said yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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