Design complexity and inflation among issues blamed for price tag almost doubling from £45m to £80.1m

A lack of interest from contractors, “unprecedented levels” of construction inflation and complex design are being blamed for the near doubling in cost of the planned V&A Museum of Design in Dundee.

Dundee city council admitted this week the price tag for architect Kengo Kuma’s Tayside museum has rocketed from the original estimate of £45m to £80.1m, ahead of a meeting of its policy and resources committee, tasked with approving the building’s funding package.

Japanese architect Kuma won a design competition for the “floating” structure in 2010, prompting concern from rival practices the project could not be delivered for its headline price.

But the £45m figure remained until last week, when Dundee recommended councillors approve a £76.2m fixed-price contract with preferred contractor Bam Construction, as part of a total package worth £80.1m.

Mike Galloway, the council’s director of city development, said in a report to councillors that a preliminary examination had found key issues behind the cost overrun were “the highly complex nature of the building’s structure”, and in particular the “unusual extent” of temporary works to construct external walls in advance of the roof.

Galloway also blamed the impact of “unprecedented levels of construction inflation” on the tender process that were “much higher than any regional inflation indices would suggest”.

He added there had been “an unexpectedly low level of market interest from main contractors” which had reflected “the risk levels associated with such a complicated and unique project”.

Bam was chosen as preferred main contractor on the project in September last year under the first stage of a two-stage tender process, after a two-horse race with Sir Robert McAlpine.

Two other shortlisted contractors had withdrawn from the tender process earlier.

Galloway said council officers, Bam and members of the building’s design team had managed to find a potential £6.5m of savings that could be made through design changes, but concluded that they would be too “severe and detrimental” to the quality of the building, which is the centrepiece of a £1bn Dundee Waterside regeneration project.

Charlie Sutherland, a director with Sutherland Hussey – one of the firms pipped by Kuma to the job – said the client had wanted “a Lamborghini for the same price as a Lada”.

Bam and Kuma had not responded to Building’s requests for comment by the time of publication.