Posted: Mon 16th Nov 2020

Senior Council Officer says “no fundamental change to the scheme approved by the Council in January” on Crown Buildings project for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Nov 16th, 2020

A senior council officer has issued a detail explainer around the Crown Buildings refurbishment project, pointing out suggestions that any additional costs could impact services at the authority is “not the case as all of the additional expenditure is coming from funds already accounted for within budgets allocated for building refurbishment work.”

Last week saw questions raised in the Executive Board meeting of the council over cost rises of the Crown Buildings refurbishment in the town centre.

Following the report of the comments made in the meeting and afterwards by Cllr Marc Jones, the Chief Officer of Housing and Economy at Wrexham Council sent a detailed overview of the Crown Buildings project.

The Officer, Steve Bayley, explained, “Work has started on the refurbishment of Crown Buildings, Chester Road, which will see the creation of a state of the art town centre ‘Community Health and Well-being Area’ within the ground floor as well as creating office accommodation to support integrated health and social care teams.

“The ‘Community Health and Wellbeing Area’ will provide an integrated health, social care, third sector and community services resource, improving access to information and advice for local people and delivering preventative and alternative solutions to care.
The building will provide a modern, flexible workspace for approximately 350 employees at any one time, (subject to Covid-19 space restrictions) but because of flexible working, will be accessed by about 550 employees and partner organisations within Wrexham town centre, which will assist in supporting the local economy.”

Detailing the timescales involved he added, “Read Construction had been appointed as the successful contractor to lead on all aspects of the building works which commenced in July 2020. The project is a 60 week refurbishment taking us through to December 2021.”

“The design proposals will also significantly improve the buildings energy performance which has been a key driver for the scheme from the outset. Read Construction has focussed on a ‘fabric first’ approach to improve the overall thermal efficiency of the building envelope to reduce carbon emissions. ”

A short overview of improvements were noted in the report before councillors last week, and reiterated in the meeting discussion.

Mr Bayley expanded on that in much more detail, “The existing walls and roof will be upgraded to include high levels of thermal insulation and existing windows and doors will be replaced with new thermally broken powder coated aluminium units with solar control glazing. Combined, this approach will work to retain heat during the winter months and reduce heat gain throughout the summer which will vastly improve on the existing building performance and address current air leakage issues. The existing heating system will be replaced with modern energy efficient boilers and new energy efficient LED lighting will be provided throughout to reduce electricity demand. Additionally, the roof area will be fully utilised to house a substantial array of photovoltaic panels which will further improve the building’s carbon footprint through on-site renewable energy production. The current Display Energy Certificate (DEC) for the building shows a ‘D’ rating. Once complete the building will be brought up to an estimated EPC ‘B’ rating which would demonstrate a significant reduction in carbon emissions and performance comparable with many new build projects.”

Confidential reports to councillors were referenced last week with the timeline of informal scrutiny and questioning by councillors being raised. The cost of the project was also queried, with around £1m extra appearing to be the figure of surprise to Cllr Jones.

Again Mr Bayley has given further detail on the timeline and pricing points, “Tenders were sought for this project on a two stage design and build basis. Stage 1 – reported to Members in January 2020, involved contractors submitting their ‘preliminary’ costs. Read Construction was the successful design and build contractor. Its design team is led by Ainsley Gorman Architects. SP Projects was appointed to perform the role of quantity surveyor and Employer’s Agent. SP Projects provided an initial estimate based upon the limited design information available at Stage 1.

“The estimated cost of the project at stage 1 was £5.625m, with a funding package approved by Executive Board, including a significant grant of £2.8m from the Integrated Care Fund.”

“Stage 2 – Involved undertaking intrusive survey work, developing the design and specification and agreeing a firm price sum to enter into a contract. This stage also enabled the scope of the work to be expanded to include essential work to the car park and public realm around the building which was excluded from the stage 1 estimate and the inclusion of solar panels and the upgraded incoming services to improve energy efficiency and to reduce the carbon footprint.”

“During the Stage 2 design phase, some costs have increased and some have decreased – this is normal. Overall costs have increased by £1.119m. The revised cost based on tenders received is now £6.744m.”

“There is no fundamental change to the scheme approved by the Council in January. The cost differential is in part due to the completion of detailed design work and the addition of some essential items originally omitted from the scheme which will reduce long-term repair and maintenance.”

The Council Officer rounded off his explanatory note by picking up a point made by Cllr Jones, who had pointed to the ‘extra million pounds at a time when we have real challenges in delivering key services, including those to the disabled’.

In response Mr Bayley said, “The suggestion that the additional costs might impact on other services is also not the case as all of the additional expenditure is coming from funds already accounted for within budgets allocated for building refurbishment work.”

“The refurbishment of Crown Buildings and the creation of a health and well-being hub is great news for Wrexham and will undoubtedly benefit local people – and let’s not forget the £2.8m of grant awarded to this project.”

Top pic: How the new Crown Buildings could look.

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