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ICE Council backs plan to spend up to £5M on new Westminster office refurb

ICE Council this week backed proposals that could see £5.19M spent on refurbishment of the ICE’s new property at 8 Storeys Gate.

Deputy director general Hugh Ferguson explained that although only £1.9M had been budgeted for refurbishment at the time of purchase, the additional sum would cover professional fees and fit out costs and ensure that the ICE maximised its asset value.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Ferguson told Council. “We expect that the investment will add around £9/sqft to the rental value and some £2M to the capital value of the building.”

ICE bought 8 Storeys Gate, Westminster in April 2009 following the sale of its Heron Quay building. The plan is to relocate most ICE and Thomas Telford staff to the new building once it is refurbished. The existing tenant is expected to move out in September 2010.

Three outline options for refurbishment were set out for Council to discuss:

  • Option 1 - the minimum refurbishment schemes costing £3.73M.
  • Option 2 - modified core scheme costing £4.42M
  • Option 3 - new core and basement terrace scheme costing £5.19M

Council was asked to advise which option or options should now be worked up in detail for representation to Council in 2010.

The vision agreed previously by Council for the building was to create “an attractive working environment which encourages good staff to join and stay with ICE and help make the Institution an employer of choice”. It also had a vision to apply best practice for sustainability.

Ferguson said to meet these goals it was necessary to invest in Option 3 and stressed that if option 1 or 2 were chosen it would be much more expensive to achieve the benefits of option 3 in the future.

Some Council members warned that discussion about such large unbudgeted investment in the face of on-going budget cuts would have to be properly explained to the membership.

However vice president Peter Hansford said: “We need to be careful to distinguish between operating expenditure and capital expenditure. What we are doing is shifting some assets from investments to property. The ICE will still retain this asset and we need to explain this to members.”

Council agreed to follow the recommendation of the Executive Board and asked that plans for Option 3 (minus) be worked up to include details of programming, phasing and de-scoping and brought back to Council for agreement.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Simon Dunn

    It is a little worrying to see that the ICE are going to spend some £5m on a refurbishment which although is open to all members, it is likely only going to be used by members in the London region. Having been involved with the ICE for some years as a student and more recently as the ICE Wales Chairman’s Apprentice I feel strongly that perhaps these funds would be better distributed among its regions to those members who may not have the opportunity to use these new facilities. As many will be aware the regions have experienced severe budget cuts and this has really affected their ability to deliver events and give the members the benefits they so righty deserve (being paying members of the ICE). In these difficult times I fully appreciate that shifting assets from investment to property is a logical concept, but are we property developers? The danger is that the members who are receiving less and less benefits will just simply leave the institution and that then causes further budget issues as subscriptions drop. By using some capital to help the regions function at an adequate level during these times would make much more sense than refurbishing a building that will benefit a small percentage of our membership. Luxuries such as refurbishments can wait until economic times are better.

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  • It's great to see that the ICE is still oblivious to the needs of the vast majority of it's members.

    How will spending £5.19M on a building in London help members in Scotland, Wales, north of England, the south west, or even the Midlands? Simple answer is, it won't! But then again, judging from the outpouring of angst towards the ICE for its failures with many things in our profession, I honestly don't think they care!

    It's nice that the editor of this magazine can at least acknowledge the increasing discontentment, but where has the response been from the ICE on all these issues raised? What do they have to say about the feelings of its fee paying members? Can someone tell me why I actually pay my subscription fee each year? What does the ICE actually do for the average Engineer out there? If it wasn't for the requirements of becoming Chartered, I don't think many Engineers would bother at all.

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  • Michael Paul

    Although the ICE has caused a lot of discontent over the plans to hike the room fees charged to associated societies, there is suddenly over 5M pounds available for office refurbishment. Does this include the costs of moving the staff to the new building, or follow-on costs for the office space they now occupy? Does the ICE need so many admin. staff in London at all, given that office space elsewhere would presumably be cheaper. The ICE still doesn't seem to have grasped the fact that it should communicate much more over such decisions to its members, and not just present us with finalised plans before any discussion could take place.

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  • An absolute disgraceful waste of the memberships subscriptions.

    It's well seen that the powers to be didn't consult the membership before taking the decision and that it's not their own money they're spending.

    Sell the building, save the refurbishment costs and reduce memebers subscriptions and while you're about it do something positive to promote the salaries and status of the membership at large and not just the President, Director General et al.

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  • It happens that I often use the existing facilities at 8 Storeys Gate for meetings, the latest occasion being just two weeks ago. One of the reasons for using this location is the quality of the existing rooms and associated facilities. I just cannot see that it is necessary to spend anything like £5m on a refurbishment of this relatively small property. The statement that the budgeted cost of £1.9m has risen to £5.19m to cover professional fees and fit out costs is particularly scary. And whilst we would all love to have an "attractive working environment", I am now working from my basement, having been made redundant earlier this year. There is a real world out there ICE!

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  • In the 'Whats On' section of NCE, why are there never any events listed under 'National' that aren't held in London? Why don't these so-called 'National' events just go in the London section?

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  • “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Ferguson told Council.

    Damn right! Once you do it this time the outrage and disgust will rule out it ever happening again!

    Not only have the costs sky-rocketed, but the vote was then made to take the most expensive of the 3 options presented.
    Surely the ICE must be accountable to its subscribers - is there any way to bring about a vote of no confidence in the current council?

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  • Simon Dunn

    Having looked over the comments made on here, it is very clear that the ICE do not listen to its members, not a single positive comment. To add to this the one comment that mentions they have recently used the facilities because of their current quality adds further justification to the fact that the ICE are wasting members money. I say members money because that’s what it is, it should be used for the members, to benefit them and enhance us as a profession. It angers me to think just how far just a fraction of a percent of the £5m being spent would go in the regions. Having recently had insight into the budget cuts in the regions, I have seen the axing of events that raises our profile in society. And how much have you heard the ICE talk about the fact that we need to raise our profile, we need more respect, more pay etc etc etc but the things that we could be doing are being cut so that a couple of ICE employees (not members but employees) can feel good in their new offices. It is a joke.

    It is about time the ICE staff in London listened to their members instead of the few "board members" in London and behaved like an institution, after all we are the Institution of Civil Engineers not ICE plc.

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  • What a good time to spend money no such a venture, at the bottom of the market. Well done to the ICE for ignoring uninformed commentary and pressing ahead.

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  • This is disgraceful on two levels. Firstly, that sort of expenditure - the timing of this announcement certainly couldn't have been any worse...well done ICE!

    Secondly, I've had enough of London-centric thinking because it is by no means the centre of the universe people seem to think it is. This will benefit so few members.

    +1 for spreading the wealth to benefit those members everywhere else in the UK. Whilst I'm charitable generally if I pay for membership to something I expect something back in return, not a feeling that I've been robbed!

    It goes to show what the ICEs values really stand for. There are several other Institutions worthy of my subs in light of this and I might even give my subs to a charity instead for what its worth!! At least I'll feel satisfied about it being put to better use!!

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