Competing demands for function and
form have convinced the Alberta government
to use design-build for a new court
building in Calgary.
$300M Calgary Courts Centre
BY JIM VEENBAAS
Competing demands for function and form have convinced the Alberta government to use design-build for a new court building in Calgary.
The $300-million skyscraper, scheduled for completion in 2007, is the largest design-build project ever undertaken by the Alberta government.
“We’ve often had very creative design teams do wonderful things in terms of aesthetics, but it ends up costing us a lot in terms of operations,” said Diane Dalgleish, listing one of the reasons the province opted for design-build on such a large project.
“We’ve had buildings that are great looking, but they didn’t work from a property management point of view. The bottom line is getting a building done and having it work for the users and property managers.”
When it’s complete, the Calgary Courts Centre will feature two towers, 24 and 20 stories tall, linked together by an atrium. Located in the heart of downtown, the one-million-squarefoot building will also have underground parking for 220 vehicles and house more than 500 people, including 75 justices and judges.
Dalgleish, executive director of the property branch for Alberta Infrastructure, discussed the project at the 2004 National Design- Build Conference in Edmonton, Sept. 22 to 24.
She spoke in front of a large group of architects, builders, project managers and business leaders from across the country who attended the three-day event sponsored by the Canadian Design- Build Institute.
According to Dalgleish, the Calgary Courts Centre will help rationalize the fragmented administration of justice in the city.
The project has been in the works for the last 20 years and the new centre will replace five different court buildings scattered across the city.
“It’s unusual in a large city to have more than one court house. In Calgary, we have a Court of Queen’s Bench and provincial courts scattered around in four other facilities,” said Dalgleish. “We wanted to get the best solution in terms of design, construction, maintenance and operations. We had some world-class proposals for this project.”
When it first considered designbuild for the project, the Alberta government was looking at innovative ways to finance the project.
It even toyed with a P3 proposal, but opted to go with a government- funded project that would be designed, built and operated by the private sector. Design-build allowed the government to keep a lid on costs and speed up the construction schedule.
“If we had to do this the traditional way, the process is so linear that it stretches everything out. A project like this could easily take seven years to compete.
“And by the time we go for the bid, what we often find is there’s an escalation in costs since we started the project and that causes even more delays.”
Alberta Infrastructure issued the RFQ on the project in December 2002 and nine companies submitted proposals.
That number was whittled down to three, then the province took the unprecedented step of offering a $500,000 honoraria to the two firms that were unsuccessful.
The winning bid came from a group that included CANA Management as the builder, Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning as the designer and SNCLavalin ProFac as the building operator.
“The $500,000 honorarium was one of the largest in North America. That was critical because we got incredible work. The proposals were unbelievable,” said Dalgleish.
“We had custom-made cabinets with all the finished schedules for every floor. We had volumes of very well thought out concept plans. We had all the costs, we had all the business terms.
“We’ve done a few of these projects, but nothing on this scale. Even for a very progressive government like Alberta, always looking at innovative options, it’s very hard to move the status quo.
“But we’ve certainly seen the results in terms of the time-frame and I loved the teamwork approach as opposed to the adversarial approach. There’s no finger pointing in terms or errors and omissions.”