The original plans for the Lochore Meadows Visitor Centre were for a complete refurbishment of the existing building which is only 40 years old. The Lochore Meadows Development Masterplan does mention limitations of the existing building, and management staff complain of there being far too much office space. The cost of heating the building seems to be one of the main problems with it.
The masterplan mentions new facilities which could be incorporated within the building to make it a better visitor attraction, and in my opinion the unwanted office space could be given over to these new uses.
To make best use of the existing space, it would be desirable to reconfigure some if not all of the internal walls. This would be done in conjunction with the design of the new roof, as walls would be placed to form the new spaces, and provide load bearing points for the roofing beams.
There’s nothing too complicated about any of that. The option was dismissed however when an architect was asked to produce a study into the benefits of a new building versus the renovation of the existing building. The new building scored marginally higher due to its use of modern high insulation materials and lower heating costs. Renovation costs were calculated to be around £750,000.
The Fife Coast and Countryside Trust then opted to go with a plan for a new building. At that point, the budget was £1.3m and the same architect was awarded the contract to provide a design. When the design came back, there was concern over the associated fees of £177,000. At this point the project was taken over by Fife Council who offered a bigger building for £1.2m as justification.
But rather than a bigger building, we have ended up with this current proposal which is 46% smaller than the existing building and the building warrant values the work at £900,000.
Building a bigger building for £1.2m seems to have been forgotten about.
Somewhere along the line, officers at Fife Council in partnership with the Fife Golf Trust and Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, took a decision to combine the project to provide a new visitor centre with a new combined Golf and Football pavilion. The two sites are approximately 500 yards apart, but it was stated that they could be run as one project from a single site office.
The tender went out for the combined project to build both the new visitor centre and the new sports pavilion at the same time, by the same firm, in order to save costs. The scope of the tender was £1.6m. The building warrants issued show the visitor centre costing £900,000, whilst the sports pavilion costs £650’000. An additional tender was issued for a site engineer to oversee the two projects, which cost an additional £26,000.
In total 7 firms returned quotes to the tender, and we were told that all of them were over the £1.6m scope. Requests for details have so far been denied due to commercial sensitivity.
These prices don’t mean much without context so I looked into what the size of the buildings was versus their respective costs.
The proposed new visitor centre is small at 349m2. At £915,000 (including £15,000 as a proportional cost for the site engineer costs) it works out at over £2600/m2.
The proposed new sports pavilion is 222m2. At £661,000 (including £11,000 supervising engineers costs) it works out at almost £3000/m2.
To see if these are close to current market rates, I hunted the internet for buildings recently constructed in Scotland. I found one sports pavilion being built for Highland Council at a rate of £1440/m2. This meant that although it was 50% larger than the one proposed in Lochore Meadows, it was only 60% of the cost. It was also a very attractive building with both male and female changing facilities for home and away teams.
During my searches I also came across two price guides to construction costs for public buildings. The first is on the West Lothian Council website for public viewing. The second was on another website showing the full guide issued by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Both guides confirmed to me that something is very wrong with the price of these new buildings.
Both buildings are of modular design, a feature which has been welcomed due to the ability to add extensions easily in future. They can also be constructed in workshops whilst the foundations and ground works are completed and then transported in and erected very quickly. This efficiency is promised to achieve a reduction in build time of 50% and a cost saving versus conventional building of 40%.
With that in mind then, the sports pavilion at 222m2 and using conventional building methods should be costing somewhere in the region of £300,000. Car parking and hard standing should account for an additional 20% at most, so that brings the total to £360,000. That’s for the conventional on-site building method. The proposed building is modular, so applying the 40% discount reduces £300,000 to £180,000 but we will assume the car parking and hard standing costs remain unchanged, which brings us to a total of £240,000. The cost per square metre is then £1081.
The visitor centre building at 349m2 using conventional methods should cost around £467,000. However, there are no foundations, utilities or hard standing works required there so the cost should be around £425,000. Demolition works might cost around £15,000 so the total should be in the region of £440,000 for a conventional build. Applying the discount for using a modular building brings the total down to £270,000. That’s £774/m2.
In summary, that would mean a total cost for both buildings of £510,000.
Given that the original tender document stated the scope at £1.6m and all 7 of the firms quoted higher than that, and the preferred bidder was not the cheapest, but “best value” I still don’t know what the actual price is for these buildings. The preferred bidder was not the cheapest, and we don’t know if they were second cheapest, third cheapest or in fact the dearest. What did “best value” represent?
Why are buildings so expensive when Fife Council is the client? Raymond Johnston from Property Services at Fife Council now states that his normal price for new buildings is £2600/m2. He has also costed the price of renovating the existing visitor centre and places that cost at £1.8m. Something appears to have gone very wrong at Fife Council if these sums of money are the norm. How long has this been going on?