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The Niels Bohr Building ordeal is finally slated to end in March. This is according to the Danish Road Directorate, which says that it will hand over the operation of the building to the University of Copenhagen at the end of next month.
»1 March or as soon as possible thereafter.«
This is what the guidance has so far been on delivering the entire Niels Bohr Building to the University of Copenhagen. But now the date is a bit more specific:
»We won’t make it for 1 March, but we’ll get there as soon as possible thereafter. And then I smile and say that the end of March is not completely off,« says project manager at the Danish Road Directorate Jørn-Orla Bornhardt.
About one third of staff at the Niels Bohr Institute have already moved into their offices at the Niels Bohr Building at the beginning of February. This is the so-called ‘easy’ part of the building, with no advanced fume extraction and lab technology.
There has been more uncertainty about ‘Building 1’, also called the Laboratory House. A series of fire closures had the Ministry of Transport postponing the opening from the end of 2022 to the start of 2023.
The project manager explains that 102 performance tests have yet to be done. Some of them take half a day, some 20 minutes, and others two days. However, if no major problems arise, work will end in March.
Does UCPH have operating responsibility for the entire Niels Bohr Building by the end of March?
»Yes,« says Jørn-Orla Bornhardt.
The purpose of the scandal-hit, large-scale construction project was to ‘improve the physical setting for the physics, chemistry and natural-science didactic disciplines at the Faculty of Science.’ But the prestige project has up until now not resulted in much more than aggravation in the form of court arbitrations, claims for damages, and layoffs.
The Danish Road Directorate, which in 2017 took over responsibility from the Danish Building and Property Agency, has not been able to comply with either budgets or timetables.
The total cost of the building now tops DKK 5 billion. This is a cost overrun of almost DKK 3.2 billion on top of the original DKK 1.8 billion grant.
The large price increase has not only been a problem for government finances. It could potentially be dangerous for UCPH. The University has previously called the price increases a »ticking bomb under university finances,« because the lease was originally defined based on the final price.
This concern was alleviated in February 2022 when the former Minister for Higher Education and Science Jesper Petersen promised that UCPH would not be left with the extra bill on its own.
»If the lease turns out to be completely unsustainable for the University of Copenhagen, then the government will seek support from the Danish parliament to assist in this situation,« Jesper Petersen said in a press release last year.
The minister promised also that UCPH would pay the lease associated with the original budgeted construction sum until the arbitration proceedings had been settled.
Rector Henrik C. Wegener has repeatedly called for a freehold ownership of its buildings because it will give UCPH more responsibility over its own finances. UCPH has applied for the type of building freehold that the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has.