Sum needed to renovate National Library grows to €91 million

The National Library has been undergoing refurbishment work since last summer.
The National Library has been undergoing refurbishment work since last summer. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While reconstructing the Estonian National Library building in Tallinn was initially meant to cost €52.3 million plus interior and IT solutions, the sum has by now grown to €91 million.

The 2022-2025 state budget strategy put the estimated price of reconstructing the 1993 building at €53.2 million.

Kati Kusmin, head of state real estate manager Riigi Kinnisvara Aktsiaselts (RKAS), told ERR that even then, forecasts suggested the project would cost more.

"While the government approved the construction side of things, it promised to return to the matter of interior finish and IT solutions at a later time," Kusmin explained.

Price hikes mean that the cost of the project has by now ballooned to €91 million. The head of RKAS added that the sum is for the entire project, including interior finish and ICT needs, while it still does not cover renovation of outdoor areas.

Kusmin and Janne Andresoo, director of the National Library, gave two reasons for the project ending up more expensive. Work started when construction prices were headed up, while the old building has also been found to be of poor quality.

"Reconstruction projects of this scale are bound to come across unexpected developments, and this building is no exception. While surveys had suggested the construction quality was poor, we were still surprised at how poor it was in places," Kusmin admitted.

Andresoo gave the example of the building's front facade that lacked reinforced concrete even though the plans prescribed its use.

"This means the structure needs to be rebuilt, which no one had counted on," she said.

The reading room's floors were found to be uneven, which again necessitated new solutions, and there were major problems in the repositories. These mistakes and construction price hikes have added €14 million to the project's cost.

"The government has yet to approve funding for the interior finish, which should follow construction. The need for funding there is €17 million, which we have tried to keep from growing," Andresoo said.

The final stage will see the National Library's outdoor areas rebuilt, which requires another €2 million, according to the library's director.

Funds needed over several years

Kusmin admitted that the sums needed to finish the complex project are considerable but added that they are needed over several years. The head of RKAS also suggested it is not up to her to say whether the money will be found in time or whether the project will drag on, while she sees willingness to look for solutions at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture.

"Interior work is planned for 2025-2026, so we have a little time," Kusmin added.

The head of the National Library said that should it prove impossible to secure additional funding at this time, negotiations with the contractor will follow to determine whether they are willing to take the risk, knowing there is no government guarantee.

"Based on what we know today, the contractor will continue building until the end of this year. The state budget strategy and the budget itself are approved toward the end of the year and will determine whether work can continue and in which stages," Andresoo said.

The director added that falling behind schedule would cause the project to end up even more expensive and keep the library from performing its function. Its 3.5 million books are currently stored in a logistics center and cannot be used.

"On the other hand, if the money cannot be found, everyone realizes that construction could grind to a halt," Andresoo admitted.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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