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Every construction company manager will be able to recall the handful of disastrous jobs that they’ve had the misfortune of working on in the past. Projects that are always behind schedule and far exceed the initial budget are the stuff of nightmares for these companies, but given the rising costs in the industry and seemingly endless red tape to abide by, keeping within budget can be difficult. Job costing software can assist companies with this task by providing the ability to monitor every cost and how it relates to your budget.

Of course, even the biggest and most prestigious projects can run into trouble. Here, we explore the biggest construction failures and white elephants in human history – be thankful that you weren’t involved in these mammoth failures!

Ryugyong Hotel

At first glance, the Ryugyong Hotel looks anything but a failure. Its distinctive pyramid-shaped exterior is a powerful design, and its 330m height means it towers over the city skyline. Anything other than a cursory look tells a different story. Ryugyong Hotel is situated in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. During the mid 1980s, the plan was for the hotel to be the tallest hotel building in the world, with a planned completion date of 1989. It wasn’t until 1992 that the building reached its full height, by which point the project was estimated to have cost $750 million – 2% of North Korea’s GDP. The structure was left empty and without windows for a decade, with inspectors questioning the structural integrity of the building. In the mid-noughties, media speculated that North Korea had simply run out of money and the project wasn’t likely to be completed. The exterior of the hotel was finally finished in 2011, but the interior remained almost empty. The hotel still hasn’t opened.

Montreal-Mirabel Airport

One of the most famous white elephants in the world, the Montreal-Mirabel Airport was originally envisaged as a bustling new airport to serve the city of Montreal. It would cover the largest surface area of any world airport and cement the city’s burgeoning growth. Development began in the ‘60s, with the airport to open in 1975, ready for the 1976 Olympic Games. Crucially, there was one aspect of the plans that was not completed: the high-speed railway linking the remote airport with Montreal, as funding could not be obtained. The new airport was meant to take air traffic away from Dorval, a far more central airport (20 min travel time to central Montreal instead of 50 mins from the new airport). International flights to Dorval were banned between 1975 and 1997 to ensure Montreal-Mirabel’s survival. When the ban was rescinded, Montreal-Mirabel quickly faded and passenger flights ended in 2004. Today, it only serves freight and its terminal is currently being demolished – the whole project was a multibillion-dollar mistake.

Cincinnati Subway

Sometimes promising projects fall victim to external factors that make them impossible to complete. That was the case with the ill-fated Cincinnati Subway project. The idea was first envisaged at the start of the 20th century, when the city’s traffic problems were growing rapidly. A subway system would ease the burden on the city’s roads and help it to grow. In 1917, citizens voted through funding plans for the system, but the timing wasn’t great – the vote came 11 days into the US’ entry into World War I. By 1919 the construction cost had doubled, but work still began the following year. Money ran out in 1927 with seven miles of subway built but no track laid. The Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression halted the project for good, despite many attempts to revive the project or find new uses for the tunnels. It is estimated that it would cost over $100 million to convert the tunnels for a modern subway.

Who knows – if these projects had used job costing software properly, maybe they would have turned out a little differently…

If you’d like to utilise the best of today’s technology at your construction company and avoid any job costing disasters, take a look at our range of construction software packages and get in touch to learn more. 

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