Wednesday, January 19

Statsbygg receives criticism for giant project on Ås: – Did not have control

WATER LEAK: This picture from September last year shows a water leak in the new building of the Veterinary Institute on Ås.

In a preliminary report, Statsbygg receives harsh criticism for not having had control over progress, costs and uncertainty in its largest construction project ever.


This concerns the co-location of the Veterinary Institute and NMBU Veterinary College at Ås, a building worth NOK 9 billion that users refuse to take over from Statsbygg.

– The complexity of the project and the consequence of the requirements for infection control have been underestimated, the consulting group Dovre writes in the preliminary report.

In 2013, the Storting allocated NOK 5.4 billion for what was to become one of Europe’s most modern buildings for research, education and innovation in veterinary medicine.

TOUR: During the opening event on 1 September 2021, the then Minister of Agriculture and Food, Olaug Bollestad, was given a tour of the new premises on Ås. Berit Djønne from the veterinary institute holds the tour.

Price-adjusted, the cost overruns are over NOK 2.6 billion. The move had to be postponed for more than two years, and a number of rejections have been reported along the way.

Dovre Group Consulting has evaluated the project on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization.

This case is based on the content of the preliminary report. Adjustments may have subsequently been made in the final report, which is expected to be published on Friday.

Statsbygg’s largest construction project

The new Veterinary Building with 2,400 rooms of 63,000 square meters is intended to be a powerhouse for diagnostics and preparedness against health threats to animals, fish and humans.

Here, the health of animals, humans and the environment will be examined holistically. The building will provide better opportunities for research into serious animal diseases that can also infect humans.

ROYAL VISIT: The Queen visits the molecular biology lab and talks to chief engineer Elin Trettenes during the official opening of the building on 1 September last year.

In advanced laboratories, researchers must be able to handle extremely infectious material – at the same time as pets and horses receive treatment at the animal hospital at the other end.

But four months after the opening, the biosafety laboratory, which is to process samples in case of suspected life-threatening diseases such as anthrax and rabies, has not been used.

The explanation is shortcomings in mission-critical systems. The old laboratory at Adamstuen in Oslo must still be used for such analyzes.

– It has been a challenging construction project, stated CEO of Statsbygg Harald Nikolaisen at the opening of the building on 1 September last year.

Statsbygg is the client for government construction projects. The project on Campus Ås south of Oslo is their largest ever, according to the report from the Dovre group.

– Future-oriented and well-functioning infrastructure is crucial. We have that now, said Rector of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU Curt Rice at the opening.

Rice maintained that the facilities were world class. Jorun Jarp, then CEO of the Veterinary Institute, called the facility “fantastic”.

RESEARCHER: Researchers are working on analyzing samples in the molecular biology lab at Ås. The photo was taken this summer.

Refused to take over

The head of Statsbygg handed over the symbolic keys at the opening.

But the responsibility for the building was refused by the users, before the client had rectified all faults and deficiencies.

The Veterinary Institute experienced that Statsbygg chose to change close to 12,000 electrical points, because there was doubt that contacts and switches were safety approved by Nemko.

Under the most advanced laboratory built in acid-proof steel, there was water to be handled as hazardous waste as it may contain infectious substances, because the drain at the showers was the highest point in the floor.

Leaks in condensate pipes in the ceiling above a laboratory led to water running through the walls. This was fixed to stop mold.

According to the preliminary report, Statsbygg had a significant management challenge, as a result of the construction contracts being subject-specific, with between 40 and 50 contracts.

In addition, delays and changes in some contracts have had major, negative consequences elsewhere. The investigators believe that Statsbygg has not adequately taken care of the whole.

Dovre writes in the preliminary report that the complexity of the project has been unusually high and adds:

– Statsbygg’s project organization and project management have not succeeded in dealing with these challenges and have not had control over progress, costs and uncertainty in the project.

Specifically, the investigators in the preliminary report point out the following:

  • Actual progress in the construction project has been overestimated.
  • The extent of the remaining work has been systematically underestimated.
  • The result is unfortunate assessments and decisions and misleading reporting of status.

They write that Statsbygg’s reporting “in retrospect has been shown to have given a persistent misleading picture of the status and forecasts for progress, cost and uncertainty”.

POOL FOR FOUR-LEFT: A dog swims in the new pool in the animal hospital at the small animal clinic at NMBU.

Along the way, according to the preliminary report, a number of uncertainty analyzes have been carried out of costs that “have generally resulted in optimistic results”.

In the project council, where four ministries have been represented, it has been unclear who will ensure that Statsbygg delivers relevant and correct information.

– The management of Statsbygg and responsible ministries have also not succeeded in uncovering the challenges in the project before it was too late or implementing effective measures to reduce cost growth along the way, the report states.

The investigators believe that the project council has made too little decision and had too little focus on future plans, uncertainties and the need for clarification.

The investigators in the preliminary report also point out that more than NOK 150 million of the billion allocation for user equipment, which is mainly scientific, has instead been used for the construction project.

– It can be questioned whether this reallocation is in line with the Storting’s investment decision, the Dovre Group’s consultants write.

The purpose of the evaluation is for involved organizations to learn about what can be done better with similar projects in the future.

Hege Njaa Aschim, Communications Director at Statsbygg, writes Aftenposten, which has also mentioned the preliminary report, that several underestimated how difficult it was to build the new veterinary building, and that this was little to compare with – also internationally.

– The overall management has not been sufficient. We agree with the presentation Dovre gives here. The reason for this is therefore very complex, she writes.

The communications director highlights many contracts with subcontractors, challenging electrical work and corona shutdown, as causes of overruns and delays.

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