After last month's Building Schools for the Future webinar, EC Harris' James Bowyer responds readers queries on tendering, whole life costs and resources

Q. The process currently requires schemes to be developed by different consortia in parallel, to a detailed level prior to award of preferred bidder. Can the duplication of resources be reduced to improve the efficiency of delivering new learning environments whilst retaining a competitive edge?

A. The procurement rules are set out by Partnerships for Schools in a fairly strict manner and although I agree that maybe BSF procurement should consider the model put forward by RIBA around Smart PFI there isn’t a choice but to follow the prescribed rules set out in the latest procurement review by PfS.

Saying that on the smaller schemes there does appear to be some acknowledgement from Tim Byles that other procurement routes might be more applicable which might enable some local authorities to look trying avoid the problem of duplication of resources.

James stated design & build "should" use whole life costing? Surely this has to be a must? For all 'sustainability' issues there is a need to evaluate only on whole life costs.

I agree it is a must but it is not a requirement under PfS standardised tender requirements as far as I am aware. That’s why I have suggested the approach so there isn’t a two tier approach between the PFI and D&B schemes.

As the programme gathers pace, do you feel that there will be an issue of capacity within the construction industry at a suitable quality and experience?

Definitely, both for the private sector and public sector. The shortage of resources is even more acute in the public sector, the issue of capacity and capability of local authorities to deliver these very large programmes in some cases is limited.

PfS is working with the National College for School Leadership on supporting schools and local authorities in developing leadership skills. However I fear that this may not be enough and more support than this is going to be required for local authorities and schools to deal with the scale and complexity that BSF brings.

On the issue of construction capacity with the levelling off of the property market, and in some cases a down turn, there should be some reduction of the pressures in the supply chain.

Do you believe the conservative party will continue with the BSF programme should they be elected in the future?

Yes I think they will. The recent green paper on education by Conservatives talks about top slicing some of the BSF funding to be reallocated to their concept of "new academies", but I don’t think this will make much difference in reality.

When can we expect PfS' Procurement Review to be published?

I understand that this is now confirmed as approved by PfS and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.