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Monday28 July 2014

Letter to the editor

Clients need to recognise procurement potential

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It is a shame that some clients overlook the flexibility that procurement based on points awarded to quality over price can offer (“c” News July 22).

Hull University’s chief finance officer confesses that their intention was always to select only practices with experience of building libraries, but it is not necessary to take such a pedestrian approach.

Judging relevant experience should involve exploring the challenges a client is facing. Applicants responding to tenders should be asked to demonstrate where they have faced challenges that have relevance to the anticipated project – for a library this might encompass experience of technological change, public access, identity, adaptability and strategies for expansion. There is no reason that procurement rules would not allow this as long as the criteria are made clear.

So why doesn’t it happen? Probably most clients want a safe pair of hands (as they see it) and many savvy architects have built their business around this demand-side anxiety. Those advising clients at the outset are typically delivery-driven and want to limit risk. All this leads to the familiar outcome described in your article.

However, these processes require hours if not days of assessment, and many architects, alas, do themselves no favours. Not sticking to the format requested is one common error; using too many words is another.

There is a minority of clients prepared to invest in cross-sector experience, but they are not always recognised – for instance, awards rarely highlight the nature of the original appointment.

Malcolm Reading
London W1

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