Saturday, August 24, 2013

State Department Begins Work on New $178M Embassy Complex in Benin

    This week, the State Department announced that in "an important symbol of our enduring friendship with Benin," construction has begun on a new $178 million embassy complex in the small West African nation, a neighbor of Togo and Nigeria.  As is often the case in the construction of new U.S. diplomatic facilities, the plans include a number of "sustainable" features including solar panels, rainwater harvesting, wastewater reuse, and LED lighting.  The complex will cover 8.8 acres, and will include
a chancery/office building, a support annex, a residence for the U.S. Marine detachment, a warehouse, a utility building, a recreational facility, and multiple access pavilions. When completed, the new complex will provide approximately 150 embassy employees with a secure, state-of-the-art, environmentally-sustainable workplace.

    The country has a population of about 10.5 million and an annual GDP of $7.5 billion. The State Department estimate that the project will contribute $32 million to the local economy is equivalent to a day and a half of the entire country's economic output.
    The contractor in charge of the project is B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama.  The contract was awarded in September 2012 and was valued at $126 million:

    In response to an emailed inquiry, Christine Foushee, Director of External Affairs for the State Department's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, said that the $52 million difference covers all other costs not included in the construction contract, such as:
 site acquisition; early site analysis and preparation; concept design; certain government procured materials; fixtures, furnishings and equipment; construction security; project supervision, and other costs that are not part of the construction contract. 
    According to the fact sheet on the project, the furnishings will include a collection of art:

  • The art collection will include works by contemporary artists from the United States and Benin. 
  • One theme of the exhibition will be art made from repurposed materials, as this is common to the arts in both countries in recent years. 
  • The collection will include objects in a variety of media, to be installed in the Chancery and on the grounds of the Embassy. 

Note: A version of this article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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