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Three chase £60m uni job


THREE firms are in the race for a £60 million university development that will rise from the ashes of a fire that devasted Edinburgh's historic city centre.

Balfour Beatty, HBG and Sir Robert McAlpine are all working up bids for Edinburgh University's new School for Informatics building for hi-tech subjects such as robotics.

The school's previous home burnt down in the Old Town district in 2002.

The new building will also accommodate student services and the College of Humanities and Social Services.

The project has been split into two phases.The first will be the 11,800 sq m School for Informatics on the southern half of the site, which is currently a car park.

At up to six storeys the building will be centred on a large atrium.

It will comprise offices, meeting rooms and some specialist rooms for artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, computer engineering and speech recognition.

The second phase will include a 9,100 sq m humanities building on the north-east part of the site and a 3,900 sq m student services building, which will vary in height from three to eight stories.

The whole complex, which has been designed by Edinburgh architect Reiach and Hall, will be clad in glass.

The two-year contract is part of a massive spending spree by the university, which is currently in the middle of an ambitious construction programme.

It plans to spend a further £50 million on research buildings before 2006.

The School for Informatics had been in the top three floors of a seven-storey building in the city's Old Town district - designated a World Heritage Site.

But a fire in a nightclub on the ground floor spread and destroyed the university's labs.

Edinburgh University was then forced to refurbish three floors of Appleton Tower in George Square to use as a temporary home for its academics and students.

The size of the job has put off bids from several smaller firms.Major players such as Laing O'Rourke are simply too busy.

A preferred bidder is due to be announced in the summer.Work is expected to start later this year.