An extra £400,000 is to be put into the budget to cope with a seven-week delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic in constructing the new £18.337m headquarters at Alconbury Weald for Cambridgeshire County Council.
Deputy chief executive Chris Malyon prepared the update for the commercial and investment committee looking at the cost implications caused by Covid-19.
Although the current projections suggestion the council is facing only a £125,000 shortfall, he wants the committee to sanction a “specific £400k Covid-19 risk contingency budget”.
He said work was progressing well until the government lockdown was ordered on March 23.
Although the new rules placed no restrictions on or required the closure of construction sites, issues soon arose.
The introduction of two metre social distancing requirements, although a recommendation and not law, was widely applied to construction sites to protect the workforce and minimise the risk of spread of infection.
“Due to the stage of construction of the Civic Hub project the application of these procedures was able to be implemented successfully, primarily due to the type of activities and relative open space available across the site,” he said.
The council’s contractor, RG Carter (RGC) has continued to keep the site open and operating “by following the various iterations of the national guidance”, said Mr Malyon.
But subcontractors and suppliers took different approaches to the Government guidance “and as a result the availability of labour and materials has been variable.
“Two particular supply chain subcontractors closed down all operations during the initial six-week period of lockdown, leading to delays to the provision of metal decking to the first floor and roof and the provision of concrete flooring to the ground floor.
Mr Malyon said several early warning notices (EWN’s) have been raised by the contractor highlighting the potential impact of this as areas of concern.
“It has since become apparent that the supply of the curtain walling installation and glazing will be delayed due to manufacturers closing down during lockdown,” he said. “This will have a direct impact on the programme and at present RGC are reporting a seven-week delay to the contract completion date”.
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This would still see the building complete in spring 2021. If the project delay is contained to within the current seven-week delay, an indicative cost for this is likely to be approximately £125,000.
Weekly risk review meetings have been held to understand the implications of Covid-19 on the project, said Mr Malyon. “The risk register and related contingency allowance for this project understandably did not account for the outbreak of a pandemic and allowances were therefore not made,” he said.
“The risk of Covid-19 impacting the project further remains live and the cost and programme impact to the end of the project cannot be fully quantified at this stage.
“However, based on an estimate of the potential reductions in productivity through to completion and an allowance for further supply chain issues, it is proposed that a specific Covid-19 project risk budget allowance of £400k now be provided.”
Mr Malyon added that the building is currently planned to house 350 desks along with flexible breakout areas, formal meeting rooms and ancillary spaces (toilets, tea points etc.), a public reception, a multi-function room and party-political rooms.
“A review of the design and specification of the building is currently underway in light of the measures now required to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The opportunity is therefore being taken now to review the operation of the building before it is commissioned and becomes fully operational next year”.
Mr Malyon also refers in his report to vacating the Shire Hall site in Cambridge.
Approximately 600 staff will have their office base at Alconbury Weald and are due to move from Shire Hall and other council offices.
He said the council was working closely with Brookgate, who are to redevelop Shire Hall, to consider how the new programme for Alconbury Weald can align with its plans to start work on an apart-hotel on the Shire Hall site.
Mr Malyton said that one of most recent developments was the suggestion of the Changing Places Toilet; which has now been introduced to the design of the building.
“Standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of all people with a disability,” he said.
“People with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well people with other physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis often need extra equipment and space to allow them to use the toilets safely and comfortably.
“These needs are met by Changing Places toilets.”