Expansion costs up 12 percent

    The $56 million expansion of Price Center and Student Center is currently facing cost overruns of $6.7 million, according to the building advisory committee in charge of monitoring the project.

    Most of the increased cost is the result of this year’s unexpected rise in the expense of steel, cement, drywall and other building supplies, according to campus architect and Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Design and Construction Boone Hellmann. Though a 3.5-percent increase in supply costs is traditional, the 15-percent spike UCSD has experienced is unusual, he said.

    “Steel prices went through the roof,” Hellmann said.

    On a per-ton unit basis, the cost of steel has climbed to $5,000 per ton, compared to $1,500 a year ago, according to Hellmann.

    “A year ago, China took raw steel components,” Hellmann said. “This left an extraordinary drought in the United States.”

    To deal with the supply-and-demand predicament, the BAC met last week to discuss new design plans for Price Center and the most efficient ways to eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce costs.

    The goal is to maintain the integrity of Price Center buildings and focus on making changes to the costly interior designs, according to architect Craig Hamilton.

    Items up for review by the board included remodeling the new Price Center building design, changing interior railings to simple pipe railings, and eliminating planned columns and other steel structures. The committee also debated how to divide Price Center’s third-floor space for student organizations.

    The construction of Price Center is expected to begin in January 2006. However, the revision process could delay construction by two months, according to BAC Co-chair and Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Carmen Vazquez.

    In addition to UCSD, buildings at UC Irvine and other UC campuses have also faced higher supply costs, according to Hamilton.

    “Everyone in the past year, year and a half has had to build smaller buildings,” Hamilton said.

    Both Hamilton and associate architect Mehrdad Yazdani said the high costs present an unusual situation.

    “[The problem] is unique,” Hamilton said. “We haven’t seen this inflation since the late ’70s. It is a big concern to the entire construction industry.”

    But Hellmann said he is reassured that the problem will not pose any serious setbacks for the expansion process.

    “It is not unusual to push the envelope in terms of costs,” he said. “We are just going to have to bite the bullet.”

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