F.H. Collins project sees more scrutiny

The government fended off more questions about the F.H. Collins replacement project in the legislature this week.

The government fended off more questions about the F.H. Collins replacement project in the legislature this week.

On Wednesday, the NDP’s Lois Moorcroft asked why the tenders for the new design request insulation efficiency values that don’t meet City of Whitehorse bylaw requirements.

“Would the minister of Highways and Public Works (Wade Istchenko) explain to this house why the tendered design for F.H. Collins Secondary School has an insulation value of only R22, while the City of Whitehorse building codes require R28 insulation?” Moorcroft asked.

He wouldn’t. Instead, Premier Darrell Pasloski replied for him, ignoring Moorcroft’s question and instead insisting that the school’s original design – which he cancelled in March – was nixed because it was over budget.

Moorcroft tried again, directing the question to Istchenko and arguing that the government’s new tender is not good enough.

Again, Pasloski replied for Istchenko without even mentioning the word “insulation.”

“I’ll again go over the timelines,” Pasloski said.

“We created a budget in May 2012 that was confirmed by two independent professional estimators, who both came in with amounts lower than our budgeted construction amount, which had been approved by management board,” the premier said.

On Thursday, Highways and Public works spokeswoman Kendra Black set the record straight regarding the insulation issue.

“All of our building projects meet or exceed building code requirements and the new F.H. Collins project is no exception,” she said.

The tender for the current design requires the school to meet LEED Silver energy efficiency certification, she said.

The City of Whitehorse bylaw in question states that an alternative to the insulation requirements “may be determined through the use of energy computer modeling resulting in an equivalent performance.”

Energy modeling is a requirement of the current tender,

Black said.

Essentially, as long as the designers find a way to make the building efficient enough to meet the overall energy requirements, it doesn’t matter what materials they use.

The current tender for F.H. Collins’ replacement is a design-build project, which means any company bidding on the project will be responsible for making sure that happens, Black said.

Barr Ryder Architects, the company that designed the Alberta school the government is using as a template for the new F.H. Collins, was paid $900,000 to update the design to Yukon requirements. Black said that meant making sure the interior layout accommodated the needs of students and staff, by adding a cafeteria and other changes.

It is now up to the bidding companies to figure out exactly how to construct the new design and ensure it is up to code, she said.

The current tender is the second iteration of the F.H. Collins reconstruction project. The first, a Yukon-designed building that was years in the making, was cancelled by Pasloski in March, and the Alberta design was chosen to take its place.

Every time the government has been questioned about the project this sitting, the premier has insisted that the budget for the original design was approved by the management board before any professional estimates came in, that the first two estimates were lower than the budgeted amount and that the bids were $10 million over budget.

But that’s not actually the case.

The first estimate, prepared by Hanscomb Ltd, said the school would cost $38.6 million. That number was delivered on May 4, 2012, and was approved by the management board on May 24. The second estimate, by BTY Group, came back in June, and was $40.1 million – close enough that the government chose to go ahead with the original estimate, Black said.

The project was put out to tender in November, but it didn’t include a temporary gym or geothermal heat. Those were added in December, after intense public pressure, and BTY produced an updated estimate of $43.7 million. When the bids were opened in March and the lowest was $47.7 million, the government chose to ignore the most up-to-date BTY estimate and evaluate the budget based on the original budget, knowing it didn’t include the cost of geothermal heat or the temporary gym.

The closing date for submissions on the new tender is Dec. 12.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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