Architect company overseeing construction of the new library in Chemainus faced North Cowichan’s council last week over unauthorized design changes. (File photo)

Architects taken to task for design changes at Chemainus library

Unauthorized changes meant to cut costs

“We messed up,” Juanito Gulmatico from HDR Architects told North Cowichan’s council on Oct. 16.

Gulmatico is the senior architect for the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s new $2.7-million library under construction at 9796 Willow St. in downtown Chemainus.

He was referring to the decision by his company, which was contracted by the VIRL to design and oversee construction of the library, to undertake “value engineering” to change some of the agreed-upon designs of the facility to reduce construction costs after the company discovered the project was over budget, and then not to consult with the municipality on the changes.

RELATED STORY: DETAILS OF NEW CHEMAINUS LIBRARY UNVEILED

Once the proposed changes were brought to the attention of the municipality, further construction on the unauthorized works was ceased until the matter was presented to council and decisions on the changes were made.

North Cowichan authorized a development permit for VIRL’s long-anticipated library, which saw construction begin last March, after community consultations on what the public wanted in the new facility and what it should look like.

The approved design for the south-east corner of the building included glazing over a large area, extending from near the base of the building up to the eave line of the structure, and the company’s proposed cost-saving amendment significantly reduces the overall level of glazing that was part of the original design.

RELATED STORY: NEW CHEMAINUS LIBRARY WILL SOON START TO TAKE SHAPE

The second proposed design change is the removal of a planned canopy on the Willow Street elevation of the building.

Gulmatico said that the primary purpose of the canopy was to provide weather protection for a multi-media panel that was to be constructed to allow visitors to locate the community’s many murals.

He said that once the plan for the panel was cancelled, the company saw no need for the canopy and that plan was also scrapped to save costs.

But a staff report stated that canopies are a common feature in the Chemainus town centre, particularly on Willow Street, and canopies are also encouraged in the Chemainus Town Centre Revitalization Plan and applicable development permit guidelines.

“For these reasons, it is recommended that the Willow Street canopy feature be maintained and that the requested amendment to remove it not be approved,” the report said.

As the applicable development permit guidelines and design philosophy are maintained with the amended design for the glazing in the south-east corner of the library, staff recommended allowing those proposed changes.

Council agreed with staff’s recommendations, but asked Gulmatico how the project got over budget in the first place.

RELATED STORY: FOUNDATION BEING BUILT FOR THE NEW CHEMAINUS LIBRARY TO BECOME A CORNERSTONE OF THE COMMUNITY

“It was a rushed process and time-sensitive to secure the bid,” Gulmatico said, noting that the company’s bid was already well along in the tender process when he became involved with the project.

“We messed up here. But we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from the community on its design so far.”

But Coun. Tek Manhas pointed out that the specifications in the library’s design were decided on when HDR Architects was awarded the contract.

“You guys are [legally] liable in that you still signed the contract,” he said.

Mayor Al Siebring pointed out that if there are any legalities to be sorted out over the issue, it would be between the company and the VIRL.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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