Review highlights V&A costing flaws


AN independent review into the spiralling costs of the V&A Museum in Dundee has found there was “little prospect” of the project being delivered for the original budget.

Procurement expert John McClelland was asked to conduct a review of the construction project, which has been tipped to create hundreds of jobs and make a huge contribution to the local and national economy.

The intended cost of £49 million has risen to £80 million, with the review stating that the approach which formed the basis of the original cost estimates was “not sufficiently robust” to address the “unique challenges” associated with Kengo Kuma’s winning design.

Mr McClelland was tasked with examining the reasons behind the significant cost increases, identifying any lessons learned and make recommendations to ensure successful delivery of the building.

The report stated that as the design progress moved forward, “it became apparent that the technical requirements and construction method involved would place real pressure on the budget.”

Mr McClelland said, “There was a mismatch between the lower aspirations for the building’s design…and the elite level of the design implied in the competition brief and eventually selected.”

In summary, Mr McClelland said, “In my opinion this project had, from the beginning, little prospect of being delivered for the original budget due to an accumulation of factors that mitigated against that outcome being achieved.”

The review said the budget was deliberately set at a “middle of the range value with the intent of having a building of high quality but not an elite structure”. Mr McClelland said the fact the “below average estimate” was also expected to cater for a building built offshore added to the risk.

He added that it wasn’t clear if judging panel members had access to “independent professional concern about the achievability of the winning bid’s cost estimate given the disproportionately high cost of the façade. As a result it may not have been possible at that stage to appreciate that in choosing the stunning winning design the complexity and challenge of actually building it would generate very significant cost premiums.”

Mr McClelland has made a number of recommendations including

  • 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.
  • Complete and detailed records should be maintained covering the deliberations and decisions of all panels or committees involved in the selection of contractors or service providers.
  • Dundee City Council should appoint a full-time in-house project manager for the V&A building with full accountability and responsibility for delivering the project on schedule and within the new budget.
  • The V&A project should have its own full-time cost manager to support the project manager in all matters of cost.

The review will be considered by councillors on August 24.

Councillor Ken Guild, convener of the policy and resources committee said, “This comprehensive review shows us where lessons need to be learned and I am happy to accept the recommendations.

“I am sure that these can be implemented quickly and that frequent updates can be brought before councillors.

“We are working with our partners and BAM Construction to ensure that this unique building helps boost the economy, cultural offer and confidence of our city.‎ Mr McClelland’s expertise has helped identify a number of issues which will help us on other capital projects as well.”