Schedule and Cost Control for Australia’s New Parliament House

Over seven years in the making, Australia’s new Parliament House at Canberra is actually a suite of buildings costing about $982 million! Meant to be an enduring symbol of the values and expectations of Australia and a source of pride for its citizens, the complex will consist of 5,000 rooms, 40,000 items of furniture, 50,000 square meters of stonework 7,350 doors, and 170,000 square meters of drywall.

Project Control Process

Project Control Process

To excavate the site, over one million cubic meters of rock was moved, and 170,000 cubic meters of concrete was poured to form the foundation. At its busiest point, the complex was costing $1.2 million per working day.

Given the immensity of the project, the information systems to control its design, construction, and furnishing were equally extensive. Procedures were devised for planning, cost control, tendering, contract commencement, drawing and samples, purchasing, stores control, contracts administration, accounts, general administration, and accident prevention. In the area of contracts alone, 540 separate contracts were awarded.

And 20,000 drawings were prepared, Thus 750,000 prints issued. Thus, computerized systems were developed for the data associated with contracts and bids, drawings, information requests, site instructions, change proposals, shop drawings, asset registers, time reporting, cost reporting, budgetary control, contracts payments, consultants’ fees, and reimbursable.

parliament House at Canberra

The old parliament house (foreground) and the complex of building that comprise the new parliament house (background) in Canberra, Australia

Time control is based on monitoring at four levels of detail giving progressively more programming detail in aspects of the project. Special purpose programs are included for specific problems or requirements. In addition to exception reports, progress review and coordination meetings help management focus attention on the areas of concern. The overall control system is illustrated in the previous figure.

Cost control is based on the philosophy that 80 per cent of the cost is designed in and only 20 percent is due to construction variations. Thus, attention was focused on three points during the design process: early on, to identify allocations and deviations; halfway through to check costs again; and at the completion. Still, ongoing cost control is necessary and performance against budget is measured monthly. Forecasts are also revised every six months to check for any problems ahead.

With such attention to control, the citizens of Australia are looking forward to the completion of their new “house.”

Source: T. R. Nixon, “Project Management at the New Parliament House, Canberra,” Project Management Journal, September 1987.


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