Bloated building costs put billion dollar project on hold

By Rebecca Pfliger

Alberta has it all. With oil, beautiful prairies, the Rocky Mountains, and a booming economy, who could complain?

Apparently, you should, because a University of Calgary research facility is suffering from Alberta’s thriving economy.

The Pine Creek Water Manage- ment Facility, a joint project between the U of C and the City of Calgary, is going ahead without the U of C due to highly inflated building costs. The City of Calgary is building the 130-acre water treatment facility on the south border of the city. The PCWMF is scheduled to be finished its first stage of development in 2007. It will produce 100 mega-litres of clean water a day.

The U of C applied for its own research facility on the land. The Pine Creek research centre was supposed to include research streams and ponds, a full-scale research wastewater treatment plant and analytical laboratories.

Between the time the plans were approved and the construction start-date, the Alberta economy took off. Construction companies are difficult to contract and building materials have more than doubled in price in the last few months. As a result, the city had to cut the cost of the PCWMF, and did so by cutting the research centre.

“There was a really huge plan for [the research facility] that has not gone away, but has been greatly reduced in scope,” said Cora Collins of the Pine Creek facility. “We’ve diverted the water and research building.” Collins noted that the research center has been diverted for at least another 10 years.

The PCWMF did grant the U of C some space in the operation and maintenance building of the regular facility. Students will have access to office space and a shared lab area sometime next year, but it won’t compare to the full-scale treatment plant originally planned, said Collins.

“This was an interim solution,” explained Collins. “Once U of C gets more of its funding in place, and the facility is complete, the research facilities will be back on the table.”

The university is currently working on exactly that.

“Funding to date includes the $625,000 from the university, $1,875,000 from Western Economic Development and approximately $2 million of a $5.3 million commitment from the city,” explained Darrel Danyluk, project director of U of C Research Services. “Funds for the balance have been requested from Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Alberta Science and Research Investments Program. Decisions of these are pending.”

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