MSPs to be offered menu of cost-cutting measures to keep Edinburgh project within £50m budget.
Scottish members of parliament are to be presented with cost-cutting proposals to prevent the new building soaring over budget.

Catalan architect Enric Miralles is to meet an all-party body on Wednesday to discuss whether to accept a building in line with his design or a radically scaled-back version.

The Miralles version, designed to RIBA Stage D, includes about 20 options that will improve the life-cycle cost of the building and keep faith with its green credentials, but at an increased initial cost.

Another version keeps to the planned £50m construction budget but at the expense of key aspects of the design and a commitment to use Scottish materials.

The project team, including Bovis, QS Davis Langdon & Everest and Miralles' UK partner RMJM, has been working hard to keep the costs to £50m, but will now ask MSPs to make tough choices themselves.

A source at the Scottish Office, which has been acting as client for the project, said the cost-cutting options, which would save £5m-10m and keep the project within the £50m budget, included:

  • using wood from an abundant source that is ready for construction in committee rooms and debating chambers, rather than Scottish sycamore that has been dried for a year to give it longevity

  • using plaster paint spray instead of granite cladding from reopened Scottish quarries for wall coverings in public foyers

  • using linoleum, rather than the specified carpet. Lino is cheaper and has the merit of being local, coming from Kirkcaldy in Scotland

  • not taking the environment-friendly option of using water from a well beneath the site for chillers at an extra cost of £150 000

  • cutting back on 50 mm of insulation throughout the building at a saving of £150 000 rather than spending more on energy in the long term

  • installing under-floor heating rather than full air-conditioning

  • avoiding the option of moving other departments, taking up 500 m2 each, from the Scottish Office four miles away to the parliament building

  • decreasing the number of car parking spaces. Nearly all the more expensive options will give better value for money in the long term, but the MSPs are under severe political pressure to keep the construction cost to £50m.

    Inflation, expected to continue at 3% until 2001, is already expected to push the cost of the building up, but the project is now turning into a test case for life-cycle costing.

    The project team was unavailable for comment, but industry sources said it had followed Treasury guidance in proving that a higher initial cost could lead to long-term savings. It has also followed the Scottish Office's brief to the letter.

    The decisions on the building's future will be made by a body chaired by Liberal Democrat Sir David Steel.

    Sir David is acting after MSPs Donald Gorrie and Margo McDonald tabled a motion calling for a review of the project and alleging that its overall cost had risen to more than £110m. This includes the £27.6m cost of renovating temporary buildings for the parliament, £10.5m for fees, £10.6m for VAT, £4m for the purchase of its site, £3.5m for furnishings and £4m for IT. A Scottish Office spokesman said reports that the project cost had doubled were "mischief-making".

    He said the project team was still working to a budget of £50m, exclusive of VAT and fees.

    Industry sources said this budget was likely to provide a "perfectly acceptable base-build option, but not a building with the lowest long-term cost".