Nfld. & Labrador

Small changes, big savings: how construction of MUN's new science building will stay on budget

Memorial University is confident that its new Core Science Facility will stay on budget, after changes were made to the planned design.

Marco Services contractually obligated to keep project from going over budget

Memorial University's new core science facility, as seen in this artist rendering, is now scheduled to open for the 2020 fall semester. (Submitted photo/Memorial University)

Memorial University is confident that its new Core Science Facility will stay on budget, after changes were made to the planned design of the building and the tendering process.

Work on the $325-million project began in late 2015 but stalled last year when all four bids submitted for the major construction aspect came in more than five per cent above estimates.

That contract has now been awarded to Marco Services, and construction should resume in the next three weeks.

Different than planned

Ann Browne, the vice-president in charge of facilities at MUN, said several design changes will lower the overall cost of the building, but won't compromise the most important features that the science faculties need.

Ann Browne is the vice-president in charge of facilities at Memorial University. (MUN)
"Instead of having glass going up the stairs, there'll be drywall, and in some of the areas where there was rubber flooring, there's going to be vinyl," she told the St. John's Morning Show.

Other changes include scrapping a plan to put a snow stop system on the roof which would assist with snow and ice clearing during the winter, as well as going for a loft ceiling look in the building's atrium instead of installing drywall.

"In a building this size of 480,000 square feet, you can get a lot of money very quickly by looking at your materials again," she said.

The original design included aspects that have since been eliminated, such as having snow stop equipment on the roof, glass on the stairs and drywall in the ceiling of the atrium. (Memorial University)

New construction plan

Before the bidding process was redone, the original plan was to have the new science building complete by 2019. Now, Browne said the planned completion date is 2020.

She said construction will begin in the next three weeks with steel set to start going up on the site by the summer.

"At the end of the day, it's probably helped us a bit in that we've stepped back and enhanced our construction season."

Browne said the university is extremely cognizant of the need to keep the project within its set budget, and that's ensured by having Marco agree to a stipulated bid contract. That means the company will be held accountable if the project runs over budget.

Memorial University's old Science Building is falling apart the university has said it is not worth spending millions on repairs. (CBC)

Corporate sponsor?

The official name of the new building is the Core Science Facility — it doesn't yet have a corporate name like the former Inco Innovation Centre, the most recently-built structure on campus. That building is now called the Bruneau Centre, named after Angus Bruneau, first dean of engineering and also a generous donor to MUN

Browne said it's possible that could change, however, as MUN's Alumni Affairs is working to find parties that may be interested in sponsoring a section of the facility.

"There could be someone who comes forward," she said.

"There is actually plenty of room for donors throughout the entire building."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show