$1 million more needed for new library 

Rising construction costs will be felt by projects throughout Whistler

Skyrocketing construction costs are forcing the budget for the Whistler Public Library up by $1.2 million.

Council must now decide to approve the new $7.98 million budget or go back to the drawing board and look at other options.

"I don’t know if it (the increased budget) could kill the project," said Municipal Park Planner Martin Pardoe. "I guess that’s one option. I think that before that option was chosen they (council) would probably look to either reduce… the size of the building or they would look to change some of the materials of the building to look for cost savings that way."

The project is already almost two months behind schedule and every month of delay tacks on an extra $60,000 to the overall cost.

This is not an anomaly. The increased costs to build the Whistler Library are just a symptom of a larger problem.

It's a relatively new phenomenon that is shaking up the industry and could have quite serious repercussions for the resort municipality, which is on the brink of a major construction boom, fuelled in part by the 2010 Olympic Games.

"We got hammered as well," admitted Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob. "I don’t think anybody has escaped."

The Squamish First Nation and Lil’wat First Nation are working together on a First Nations Cultural Centre in Whistler. Jacob said the centre will cost them a lot more than they anticipated. The budget has jumped from original estimates of $15 million in 2003 to $19.6 million this year, due in part to rising construction costs.

"It's just a horror show for everybody," said Jacob.

There are a number of factors at play, exacerbating the situation in the province and in the rest of Canada, from the rising cost of materials to a shortage of labour and a glut of work.

Toby Mallinder, a partner with BTY Group, which does construction cost consulting among other things, explained the factors behind the ever-escalating costs.

One of the driving forces is the 2010 Olympic Games and the push to complete projects before the world descends on B.C. Between now and 2010 there is at least $12 billion worth of major infrastructure to be built, mostly between the Lower Mainland and Whistler, including Olympic venues, the Sea to Sky Highway and the Vancouver Convention Centre, to name just a few.

All that demand means the sub trades are very, very busy. Take the concrete formwork subtrade as an example. BTY Group estimates prices for this trade have gone up 50 per cent within the last two years.


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