Plan agreed on for dental school

The University of Otago has settled on an option for replacing its ageing dental school, with the ''four-year'' construction project set to be the largest in the institution's history.

Chief operating officer John Patrick said the university's dental school project working party, of which he is the chairman, yesterday agreed on an option to renovate and add to the existing dental school.

After a ''range of options'' were explored over the past few years, the choice eventually came down building a ''completely new'' dental school on a separate site and renovating the old building.

The working party also chose a lead architect for the project yesterday, but was unwilling to release a name as a contract was yet to be signed, Mr Patrick said at yesterday's university council meeting.

The developments were a ''major milestone'' for a project, which Mr Patrick previously said would be the largest building project in the university's history.

''We now look forward to moving on and getting this project done.''

The budget for the project had previously been put at somewhere between $50 million and $100 million and the university has signalled it would be high up its massive capital works programme, which is expected to cost more than $600 million.

Going with the option of renovating the existing building came with ''significant challenges'', Mr Patrick said yesterday.

''One of the challenges is the decant, because this work will have to be done while this dental school still operates.''

However, the architects had assured the university this was possible.

''They are all very confident that they can do the work without disturbing too much the operation.''

The university council approved extra funding, of an unknown amount, for the project during the closed section of yesterday's council meeting.

In a statement provided to Otago Daily Times after the meeting, Mr Patrick said it was unknown when construction would start on the project, but the work was expected to take four years to complete.

The funding approved yesterday would pay for a range of work including a concept design report, a detailed estimate to prepare for the next funding application and the development of staging and decanting strategies.

Other steps that had to happen before construction began included a detailed cost estimate, project budget approval and the appointment of contractors.

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