New measures rolled out to boost interest in airport expansion project

Taipei, Both Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Co. (TIAC) and architects responsible for building the airport's new terminal have offered better conditions on the project in an attempt to attract contractors, with the project currently stalled due to a lack of bidders.

In its latest briefing to contractors on July 25, TIAC proposed adjustments to the tendering conditions for the construction of the main terminal building to address contractors' concerns over the largest single public infrastructure project undertaken in Taiwan since the 1970s.

The company has increased project flexibility, including offering bidders private consulting sessions and allowing them to propose other feasible ways to carry out the project based on construction capacity.

TIAC also made public the budget for separate construction items which is uncommon for standard tendering as in other cases, only total budgets are released to give bidders a better idea of the projects parameters.

Those revisions came after three unsuccessful tenders for the Terminal 3 main building since 2018, which led to a budget increase earlier this year for the project from NT$74.7 billion (US$2.4 billion) to NT$78.9 billion, and an extension of the deadline from 2020 to 2023.

TIAC has tried to divide the work into smaller parts to make the tenders more appealing, but without success.

In December 2018, it divided the original NT$39.6 billion main building project into two parts with increased budgets NT$34 billion for civil engineering work and NT$10.8 billion for electrical and mechanical work.

However, that failed to boost interest in the June tender.

The biggest problem is not how difficult this case is, but the huge gap in risk assessments between the government and the bidders, a TIAC official said on condition of anonymity.

Due to the scale of the project, it is natural for contractors to be worried about issues such as unexpected additional costs during construction, and whether they can afford a 36 month period for the government to close the case and pay its bills, the official said.

To ease those concerns, TIAC offered other financial incentives, including cutting fines related to delays in bidders' contract performance from 1 thousandth to 0.15 thousandth of contractual price per day.

More importantly, Taiwanese engineering company CECI Engineering Consultants, Inc., which is partnering with the British architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to design the new terminal, said the team is willing to simplify the design as much as possible.

Those measures include the removal of 817 skylights and turning the 13,000 aluminum pedal installations which also buffer noise and amplify illumination into stainless steel installations called pixels, said CECI executive Wei Yunlu (???).

The team is also considering, although only reluctantly, replacing the building's signature ceiling, a wavy design dubbed cloud, from which pixels are hung.

It will be a pity if the cloud is removed, Wei said, since it is only budgeted at NT$1.6 billion, about 5 percent of the NT$34 billioncivil engineering work.

There has been criticism that the ceiling design is too complicated, but the fact is that with a relatively small amount of money, it could create a big impression which was why we won the international design competition in the first place, Wei said.

Transportation Minister Lin Chialung said on July 22, that given the budget for the project was raised earlier this year, (TIAC) should conduct a performance review to work toward changing the design.

Wei said the team is willing to cooperate, but also cautioned that as more elements are removed, floor area shrinks and it will be difficult for Terminal 3 to live up to expectations that it will turn the airport into a worldclass aviation hub.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners was chosen in November 2015 as the architects for the Terminal 3 project, which was to increase the airport's passenger capacity by up to 20 million annually, and work began in 2017.

Last year, passenger volume at the airport reached 46.5 million, far exceeding the 35 million passengers the two existing terminals were designed to handle.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel