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Friday25 July 2014

Architecture competitions must increase, says Brady

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RIBA president wants “hundreds”

Britain should be holding hundreds of architectural competitions every year, just like other countries in Europe, the president of the RIBA has said.

Angela Brady said competitions were fairer for architects and better value for clients – but the challenge was convincing risk-averse customers to ditch the tick-box approach.

Nearly two-thirds of UK practices are simply ignoring the PQQ system because it is so expensive and the chances of success “negligible” for small firms, according to new RIBA research.

Brady told a discussion at the Ecobuild trade show this week that Britain needed to emulate other parts of Europe where almost every building is procured through competition.

Walter Menteth, who is leading the institute’s procurement taskforce, described last year’s 21 RIBA competitions as “staggeringly paltry”.

He said the cost of procurement in this country was more than twice as high as on the continent, making Britain the “sick man of Europe”.

Another problem was the trend towards aggregating contracts into huge bundles, he added.

“The EU has a very different procurement culture and we have much to learn,” he said. “We are in an aberrant position so we are seeking to ensure more diverse procedures are used [in the UK] and looking to see if that could be done through localism.

“Competitions are raising the standard and quality of construction. They are delivering sustainability. They are not delivering buildings that are falling apart after two years.”

Hilary Satchwell, director of Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, said the PQQ system was a “huge waste of human capital on both the client and practitioner side” and called for better advice for inexperienced clients.

But David Ubaka, former assistant director at Design for London, said clients were put off because many competitions ended with nothing being built.

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Readers' comments (8)

  • There can be only one

    As a small practice we spent 4 days filling in a PQQ that I thought we had a slim chance of getting on the shortlist (basically because it had a fee sections and I could go in low). 4 weeks after the submission date we get a notification from the council saying that they had changed their funding strategy and the tender was cancelled. Well that's half my monthly salary gone now. I would love to see more Europan style competitions, but the jurors must be as impartial and professional as the Europan ones.

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  • There can be only one

    Currently not one competition on the RIBA website

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  • Is Angela Brady saying that architectural competitions are fairer than the OJEU system? That wouldn't be hard. My experience of architectural competitions is that they are generally extremely unfair and that they send a message to those who appoint us that we are prepared to work for nothing. There is much anecdotal evidence available of a lack of fairness including one instance where a government agency held a competition and advised one practice that it was minded to award it the contract, dependent upon agreement of a reduction in the proposed architect's fee. The architect refused to reduce the fee, so the goverment agency gave the award to the second-placed architect, along with details of the first placed architect's scheme, to which the second-placed architect was told to amend his proposal. The second-placed architect did so, administrated the contract for the development of the original first-placed architect's scheme and the first-placed architect got nothing. The first thing that the first-placed architect knew about is was when he saw his building completed with another architect's name on it. He asked the second-placed architect to send him a copy of their competition entry, which they did. What he found was that it was nothing like the completed scheme. Is that fair? Of course it isn't, and there are many other such instances of abuse. What is needed is a comprehensively regulated competition system, where all short-listed entrants are remunerated, copyright conditions are upheld and where the process is transparent and available for public audit. To maintin the integrity and value of the profession's intellectual property there should also be no financial benefit to accrue to the intended client through competition, in relation to normal appointment preocedures, effectively meaning that the benefit of having six practices coming up with soluitons, leads to an uplift in the fee paid to the winning practice, with remuneration paid to all participants and any partial use of design is also remunerated.

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  • Munter Roe

    Competitions: An 'honest' 'transparent' method of handing the work to your mate.

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  • At least with an unsuccessful design competition entry you might have something to show at the end of it as opposed to an unsuccessful PQQ where you're left with a stack of forms and documents and the knowledge that someone somewhere is happy to work for a fee that wouldn't cover the cost of a site visit.

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  • zecks_marquise

    It's hysterical that the OJEU is derived from european standardised procurement methodologies aimed at improving competition. As far as i can see, the only way RIBA can make it 'fairer' is if they make the effort to draft their own version. On that note, what the bloody hell do they spend my fees on? It sure as hell isn't a script writer for Brady

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  • Let's be honest, competitions equal free designs..! Due to the low strike rate and transfer of our concepts to the lowest bidder, we very rarely undertake competition entries unless our expenses are covered. As an industry we should respect our skills and take a stronger line with clients.

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  • Everybody (except, apparently, Angela Brady) knows that public bodies and local authorities are required by law to procure their buildings via the OJEU system but that they usually already know who they want as their architect, and that this is the architect who always ends up getting the job.

    And yet we keep on filling in PQQs and wasting our time. What we should be doing is boycotting the OJEU process until it is thoroughly reformed - as many architects have been calling for for years.

    As President of the RIBA Angela Brady is in an excellent position to apply pressure in Brussels to get something done about this.

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