Photo courtesy of Kiewit-Turner JV
Patient Critical Colorado veteran's hospital was the VA's first try at new project delivery system.

I t remains a mystery what role the design team played and how much, if any, blame the Dept. of Veterans Affairs will shoulder regarding the problems that have beset the VA hospital project in Aurora, Colo. Since a federal contracts dispute-review board last month granted project prime contractor Kiewit-Turner the right to leave the job, K-T and the VA have been negotiating terms for finishing the over-budget project.

The project was the VA's first try at building with construction-manager input into the design. The effort may have been complicated by the fact that the design team, a joint venture of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, S.A. Miro, Cator Ruma and H+L Architects, had been working on the project since the end of 2007—several years before the contractor was on board.

In particular, the dispute-review board stated that the VA failed to have the design team redesign the hospital to meet a target price of about $599 million. K-T has indicated the project's final cost to complete may be around $1 billion.

The dispute-review board included testimony from project team members who said the VA delayed handing K-T 100% drawings, which were badly needed once a notice-to-proceed had been issued; further, what was finally delivered was only 80% complete.

In July 2012, the VA project manager from Jacobs Engineering, James Lynn, said the design team was reluctant to participate in the value- engineering process, the dispute board stated. While some VA officials complained about the design team's "unnecessarily complex design," the VA in May 2013 told K-T not to do any cost-cutting, according to the dispute board.

The VA, in a detailed response to ENR's questions, says the project provided many lessons, but the "design team was tasked with designing to the cost to complete. VA undertook a value-engineering effort and was assured by the design team that the design was within the established costs."

Andy Boian, a Denver-based spokesman for the design team, stated that it has "worked within budget and to the time frame agreed." Being left out of the hearing before the dispute board in May "eliminated the opportunity for firsthand information" from the design team, but Boian said the design team is "committed to finishing its work on the project." A House committee will hold hearings on the project on Jan. 21.