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Balfour Beatty dropped from race to build Google's London HQ

One of the four big-hitting firms vying to build Google’s £300m King’s Cross headquarters has been cut from the shortlist as the developers prepare to pick a winner this month.

Balfour Beatty has been knocked out from the competition to build the 1 million sq ft office, according to sources close to negotiations.

Bam Construct, Carillion and Skanska will now fight it out to construct the new UK hub for internet giant Google that is due to house 3,000-4,000 employees.

CN understands that pricing was one of the determining factors in the decision to drop Balfour Beatty from the shortlist.

The contenders now include just two of the three principal contractors for the King’s Cross site: Bam Construct and Carillion.

Kier, the third of the developer’s principal contractors on the development, failed to make the original shortlist of four. Kier was subsequently awarded an £18m contract to redevelop the Midland Goods Shed at King’s Cross for supermarket chain Waitrose.

Kier’s chief executive Paul Sheffield told CN in January that the firm chose to exclude itself from the Google contest due to its strict bidding caps.

“We pulled ourselves out some time ago despite the close relationship we have with [development manager] Argent,” he said. “On the building side we put a self-imposed limit of £150m to £200m in project value.

“Historically we have not been in the market of the multi-hundred million pound projects, it’s not something we have wanted to get into.”

Google and Argent had considered whether to ask more than one firm to form a joint venture on the Google project but will opt for a single contractor to avoid potential wrangling over partnership details.

Argent is part of the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership that is developing the site.

Google’s big move

Google is due to move into its new building in three phases as leases expire on its current premises in Victoria.

The planned building will range in height from seven to 11 storeys. It was designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris architects and will sit above retail units comprising shops, cafes and restaurants.

The construction plot, known as Zone A, is situated immediately north of the new concourse at King’s Cross station, east of King’s Boulevard and south of the Regent’s Canal.

Google’s acquisition means that 4.5m sq ft of the total 8m sq ft of the consented development space at King’s Cross – more than 50 per cent – is now completed or committed.

Google’s purchase of the 2.4-acre plot was confirmed in January after drawn-out talks throughout last year.

The development is worth about £1 billion and will provide 1 million sq ft of office space (gross), while the construction cost is estimated at £300m.

Subcontractors will be finalised in the next six to seven months for the HQ’s piling, foundation, groundworks, main building frame, mechanical and engineering, lifts, roofs and cladding.

Construction is set to start this year pending approval from Camden Council and is due to be finished in 2016.

Argent will be targeting a BREEAM Outstanding rating on the scheme, and a US equivalent LEED Platinum grading.

Balfour Beatty has been contacted for comment.

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