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'Scary numbers': Burnaby councillors alarmed at $7M increase to community centre redevelopment

Councillors expressed surprise at the cost of redesigning the project at Confederation Park.

A second gym for Burnaby’s Confederation Park Community Centre redevelopment will cost the city another $7.36 million.

Council unanimously approved the contract increase to Revery Architecture Inc. for the new designs, though two councillors expressed concerns.

“I’m quite surprised at the magnitude of this change,” Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said at a meeting Dec. 4, asking why the increase was so high when the only change was the gym addition.

'A lot of re-work'

Libby Vidic, the senior manager of lands and facilities, said while it might look like just a second gym, it means a host of changes.

“Due to that addition, we’ve had to redesign the schematic design, the detailed design, construction documents, tender documents and all the building permit documents as well,” Vidic told council.

“So that adds to a lot of re-work that had to happen, not just for our architect but also for the subconsultants.”

The staff report notes the increase includes “additional requirements” requested by council, including:

  • Geothermal field feasibility investigations
  • Building permit change
  • Public engagement due to requested re-design
  • Replacement of gym columns with structural steel truss system on the roof

The design has cost a total of $19.37 million.

That’s about 10 per cent of the construction value on the project, $200 million, which Vidic said is typical for design fees.

Vidic said the total cost is currently estimated at $238 million.

The number surprised Dhaliwal.

“I wasn’t prepared to hear it was over $238 million,” he said.

The total project cost was originally estimated to be $127 million in 2021.

“That hadn’t registered with me that the budget was $238 million. That seems to be quite wasteful,” Dhaliwal said, and asked for more details to come to the financial management committee.

A rendering of the gym at Confederation Community Centre. By City of Burnaby/Revery Architecture

But chief administrative officer Leon Gous said value engineering has brought the construction budget close to what councillors have already seen.

Gous said the staff would share the breakdown of current costs when the next contract goes before council, along with comparisons for construction values for similar community centres.

Coun. Pietro Calendino noted council has waffled on whether the project should have one or two gyms and said council should have agreed to the project in 2019 when it was cheaper.

He expressed concern about the $238-million price tag.

“That is scary numbers, really,” Calendino said.


He asked why private developers can build highrises of 60 storeys for $600 per square foot of construction, but public construction goes for $1,000-plus per square foot.

Gous pushed back on the comparison.

“We actually don’t really know the details of what it really costs to build a highrise, to be quite frank,” Gous said.

“These are two very different buildings. With a highrise, you’re talking about an efficient floor plate that’s repeated 30 times, versus a very special building that is a one off.”

“We’re often right in the middle of the averages,” he said, for the type of building, and he reminded council construction costs have “gone up exceptionally.”

Gous also noted: “We’ll be very clear. People throw different numbers around on totals. Some include fit and finish; some include design costs; some don’t. Some are just hard costs for the construction. Some include off-site costs. So when you compare, we’re trying to be very careful to make sure that it’s always apples-to-apples.”

Staff expect to seek construction contracts for the Confederation Park project in spring 2024.