Public construction: How much does it cost?

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How much does it cost to construct a new public building?


That depends on how you calculate the cost. Do you include the purchase of land? The demolishing of existing structures? Landscaping? All of the above?


If you do, the total price of the new Sequim Civic Center works out to a whopping $465 a square foot. ($15.8 million divided by 33,000 square feet.)


But that’s not a fair way to look at it, says Sequim City Engineer David Garlington. He notes that’s a “project cost,” not the building construction cost.


A breakdown of the estimated costs created by the city’s consultants, Optimum Building Consultants, shows that to be the case. For example, the purchase of the old Serenity House facility and land alone cost $1.25 million. Demolishing the four buildings for the Fir Street/Sequim-Dungeness Avenue site will cost an additional $225,987 to make room for the project.


And then there are the many smaller expenditures: an emergency generator will be purchased for $75,329, with another $62,774 spent on “modest soils remediation.”


Add them up and they total nearly $6 million.


But the building itself also will cost big bucks. “A city hall is considered a complicated building,” Garlington said. “It’s not like a general business, which would be a fairly simple structure.”


He said that’s especially true when the city hall includes a police station, “because you have elements of hardening to protect that area.”


“And then you have secure areas within the secure area, like holding cells and so forth. They cost a lot of money. They’re specialty items.”


The preliminary budget for the civic center, prepared with assistance from city officials by Optimum Building Consultants, suggests the police station will cost $3,4220,725, plus a few special items, including fences. The “evidence and archives storage” facility will cost another $496,540.


And then there’s city hall. The new council chambers and support offices will cost $954,434, with the “balance of city hall spaces” estimated to cost $5,375,662. The building’s lobby is budgeted at $503,497.


Another big ticket item is the fitness center, earmarked for $208,690.


Add those figures up, plus a few additional items, and the total comes to $11.85 million, or about $340 per square foot.


That’s the amount of the contract the city signed with their chosen design-build team, Lydig Construction and Integrus Architecture.


Garlington said Optimum Building Consultants came up with the estimates based on the city’s input. “We provided a specification. We told them the square footage for rooms and gave them a general sense of what the interior and exterior finishes will be. We told them what we wanted.”


Determining the costs

Garlington said the prices weren’t simply plucked from the air, but resulted from extensive research into other buildings built in Western Washington. He said the consultants researched the cost of building similar buildings, as did city officials. “I had conversations with the people who had in the not too distant past put together city halls, particularly Kenmore,” Garlington said.


Kenmore’s new city hall, opened in 2013, cost $14.4 million, with construction costs of $9.4 million. The building has 36,930 square feet, including 15,000 square feet of underground parking.


Poulsbo also has a new city hall. Its 59,012 square feet also includes an underground parking garage.

The new city hall, touted as high-tech and low-impact, cost $15.8 million.


Other new public buildings now planned for Sequim are budgeted for similar amounts when calculated by square foot. Construction of Olympic Medical Center’s new 22,500-square-foot outpatient surgery and endoscopy center is estimated at $9 million.


The new PUD headquarters building in Carlsborg and the engineering addition to the Carlsborg Operations Center is preliminarily estimated at $12 million for approximately 36,000 total square feet (30,000 for the new headquarters, 6,000 for the engineering addition). Estimated costs include site development, construction and all “soft” costs.


Lee Fenton, a consultant with BLRB Architects, worked with the Sequim School District to come up with an estimate for the costs of the new buildings that are part of a new $154 million plan for reworking the district’s facilities. He said in estimating the costs, he worked on the assumption that new school construction would cost somewhere in the “low $300 per square foot range.”


“Plus project costs,” Fenton added. Those could amount to 35 percent or more.


The Jamestown S’Klallam Medical Clinic is, like the civic center and the PUD building, approximately 34,000 square feet. It was completed in 2010 at a cost of $6.4 million on land donated by OMC.


Garlington said he couldn’t comment on the disparity in prices, saying, “I don’t know what that building is.

It’s very easy to compare apples and oranges in construction.”


He said the comparable are only valid if they are made with a “something similar, not a clinic or office building.”


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