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Kuma's V&A Dundee could never be built to budget, finds report


An investigation into the ballooning costs on Kengo Kuma’s proposed V&A museum has concluded that the scheme was unlikely to ever come in on budget

The promoter of Dundee’s new V&A set a budget for a mid-range building before its judging panel selected an iconic and expensive design by Kengo Kuma, according to a report into the project’s cost overruns (see attached).

In January, the council appointed John McClelland, chairman of the Skills Development Scotland, to investigate how the building’s budget rocketed from £49 million to £80 million.

His report, released last week, concluded that, right from the outset, there was little prospect of the building being delivered against budget set by Design Dundee Ltd (DDL), a partnership between the V&A, the University of Dundee, the University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise.

McClelland said: ‘There was a mismatch between the lower aspirations for the building’s design on which the £27 million budget was based and the elite level of the design implied in the competition brief and eventually selected by the panel.’

DDL had adopted a target cost per square metre of £4,500, below the average cost of a number of similar projects and a third less than Glasgow’s Riverside Museum.

This figure led to DDL set a budget of £27 million for construction costs ‘with the intent of having a building of high quality but not an elite structure’.

He said it was unclear how DDL’s judging panel had chosen the winning design, but that it may not have appreciated the real cost of delivering it within the prescribed budget.

The panel had been presented with a short report by a firm of chartered surveyors which ‘did not include any detailed analysis or investigation of the construction costs within any of the six bids,’ the report said. Notes from the meeting were not made available to the panel.

‘In summary, the review has concluded that the international benchmarking approach which formed the basis of the original project cost estimates was not sufficiently robust to address the unique challenges associated with Kengo Kuma’s iconic winning design for the V&A in Dundee,’ the report said.

McClelland recommended that, in future, decision making for major projects including the selection of designs should be supported by fully detailed cost estimates prepared either in-house or externally by independent quantity surveyors.

He also said that detailed records should be kept of deliberations and decisions made by all panels or committees involved in the selection of contractors or service providers.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Is it any wonder clients are so wary of architects when they seem so distanced from cost?

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  • Again Paul, not all architects....as I'm sure you know.

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  • 'Iconic' buildings have a very poor reputation for budgetary control, dating from at least the Sydney Opera House. We must consider whether the 'genre' is not fatally flawed in its conception.

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  • Perhaps we should also wonder whether Architects are best suited to the task, the RIBA at least having been established to ensure some level of certainty for large houses, churches, libraries, schools, hospitals and other general public buildings, not mega-projects ?

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  • Perhaps, if architects competing for the chance to design 'iconic' buildings were at risk of diminished fees in the event of inflated costs due to contempt for the budget it would concentrate minds.
    But surely the competition assessors should be keeping a sharper watch on the credibility of both the budget and the design's predicted construction costs?

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