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Friday25 July 2014

Architects back petition to reform procurement

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’Safety-first’ culture accused of stifling flair in public sector buildings

Leading architects including Rab Bennetts and Paul Williams are backing a petition for the government to simplify public sector procurement.

Called Save Money – Streamline Procurement, the e-petition was launched by Willie Watt, partner at Dundee-based Nicoll Russell Studios earlier this month.

It follows a string of high-profile complaints on recent schemes, including a £10 million revamp of Hull University’s Brynmor Jones Library, where rejected architects claimed the scoring system had failed to prioritise flair ahead of a “safety-first” culture.

“It’s all about health and safety,” said disappointed architect Richard Jobson, founding director of award-winning Design Engine. “It is a total waste of time to complete PQQs when you don’t have a chance.”

The petition is calling for government to make procurement less wasteful, fairer for architects and to rid the process of “tick box mentality and policies rather than the talent, skills and services offered by the bidders”.

Watt said: “The profession is spending vast sums of money chasing projects, there is little scope for newcomers to get onto the roundabout and the system has become so bloated that the review process is leading to projects grinding to a halt.”

The petition was backed by Paul Williams, a director at Stanton Williams which designed Central St Martins College’s new home.

“We understand the need to ensure quality is maintained and risk is reduced within the architectural selection process,” he said. “But this is not achieved by increasing the amount of soulless and costly box ticking that inevitably sucks the creative life blood out of the public sector procurement process.”

Architect John Assael echoed complaints that the system was too obsessed with form-filling.

“I think the public sector procurement is a flawed process when it comes to assessing architecture firms like mine,” he said. “Recently we entered an expression of interest and we didn’t get on board, not for reasons of design or finances, but because we didn’t have an adequate complaints procedure.”

Bennetts, a trustee of Design Council Cabe, has already promised to lobby ministers over the issue as the current scoring system originates from the Treasury.

Sign the e-petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/273

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Ptolemy Jones

    I am honing my box ticking skills as a Part 2 Student on CDM-type form-filling. Let me know if anyone needs me to help generate piles of paperwork for them too. Perhaps we could meet up for a risk workshop, and then some rock climbing for leisure later on.

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  • james francis

    Ptolemy Jones, who ever in your practice or Uni' is turning CDM into form filling should be shot - that is out dated and bad practice if that is how CDM delt with where you are. Paperwork does not mean complying with CDM.

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  • james francis

    Why would anybody claim design is limited by CDM and Health and Safety. To try to blame the ills of procurement on these issues is simplistic and banal. Get a grip and pay for some CDM CPD if required, or just try talking to others in the industry... sorry but preventing injury and loss of life is more important than architects egos. You should address the failing of current procurement systems as a whole not side track an important issue with headline grabbing populist stunts like this.

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  • Munter Roe

    As much as i detest 'elf and safety, you do have a point james. This is a procurement issue not H+S.

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  • I'm surprised that more people haven't picked up on this. In my experience, current procurement practices are a massive barrier to all but the biggest multi-disciplinary companies getting decent work.

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