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Hopkins refutes MPs' building cost allegations

Michael Hopkins and Partners has defended its embattled Portcullis House in Westminster after a barrage of media criticism over allegedly spiralling costs.

The £170 million building, which includes 200 plush offices and committee rooms for mps, is due to be topped out in May. The architect insists that building work is on time and to budget for an August 2001 finish.

The building has been beset by bad press over costs ever since Hopkins started work on it in 1993. Yet the design and room requirements have changed very little in that time, according to senior associate David Selby. The only addition to the original brief has been a handful of extra broadcasting rooms to transmit debates, he said. Delays on the Jubilee Line had caused costs to rise, but they had not rocketed as a result, and several tenders were coming in on or under budget.

Selby said that there had been considerable debate focused on benchmarking for finishes such as English oak instead of the more usual - and cheaper - veneer used in most office fit-outs. But, he pointed out,'the building will have a design life of 120 years but an expected overall life of 200 years. So we are building in a lot more cost than for a normal building, which would be stripped out and refitted every 15 years and probably knocked down after about 50 years.'

He added that it would be possible to build three or four buildings for the price of Portcullis House, but they would not be the same contextually. 'It is difficult to put a price on it when you are following in the footsteps of Barry and Pugin, and building on the riverfront and on Parliament Square.'

Selby's comments echoed findings in a recent leaked report by quantity surveyor Northcroft, which said that mps were getting what they voted for after approving the brief.

The Cabinet Office said Northcroft's report was a mid-term review and would be received by the House of Commons in April. A parliamentary source close to the project said inflation had added up to £40 million to the project but that this was an anticipated extra. He confirmed the report's findings that around £30 million had been added because of delays to the nearby Jubilee Line Extension. 'Press reports that costs have soared by £100 million are absolute rubbish,' he said.

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