International builders chase Louvre contract

A dozen builders from around the world are chasing the high-profile contract to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.

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A dozen builders from around the world are chasing the high-profile contract to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) is to award the contract in September. Stuart Magee, the executive director of project delivery at TDIC, said there had been a strong response from international and local contractors.

Bauer International, the German construction company, has started piling works on the museum, which will form part of the Cultural District in the Dh99 billion (US$26.95bn) island development. A contract for substructure work will be awarded in May. The main construction deal for the Louvre, which has been designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, was to have been awarded at the end of last year but was delayed after TDIC changed the format to cut costs.

It was originally to be a design-and-build contract, which is meant to minimise project risk for a developer and quicken delivery by overlapping the design and construction phases. While the method was preferred during the construction boom, the recent turmoil in the market has led developers to consider other methods in order to reduce costs. Now the Louvre contract will be a lump-sum deal, so the contractor will not be able to charge a premium for taking a design risk.

Instead, TDIC completes the designs before inviting contractors to submit their bid. Mr Magee declined to say how much it would cost to build the museum but said it would be "less than Dh3bn", thanks to the change in procurement strategy and lower construction costs, which have fallen by about 30 per cent from their peak in the middle of 2008. "It's a smarter way of buying the projects given the opportunities in the market," he said. "We've managed to secure interest from contractors and we're going to be in a position, as a client, to build it in a very favourable way."

The most complex part of the museum's construction is the dome, which will cost about 30 per cent of the total, added Mr Magee. Construction of the Louvre is expected to be completed by September 2012, with the public opening planned for one year later. Meanwhile, Bauer is undertaking enabling works on the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum, which will also be a highlight of the Cultural District. The tender for the piling contract is being prepared.