CABE is continuing the PFI debate by recommending a seven-point plan to improve design quality.

The design watchdog has published a five-page policy paper to add to the guidance Improving Standards of Design in the Procurement of Public Buildings, published jointly by CABE and the Office of Government Commerce in 2002. It also parallels the RIBA’s “Smarter PFI” campaign, which was launched by incoming president Jack Pringle last month.

CABE is calling for:

  • Proper project preparation by the client
  • The appointment of a paid client design adviser
  • The closer involvement of client and users in the design stage
  • Inclusion of hard design standards along with service output specifications in tender briefs.

Both reports have been welcomed by the Treasury’s PFI department. A spokesperson said: “We are pleased that CABE recognises PFI delivers good quality design, and this follows on the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award 2005, sponsored by CABE, for the Brighton Library PFI project.”

Sunand Prasad, the commissioner for CABE who drew up the policy paper, said: “The CABE/OGC report is a considered piece of work, but there have been 600-odd PFI projects since then. So it’s time to take a good hard look again at PFI and design quality.”

Among nine “barriers to the delivery of design quality in PFI”, the paper lists inexperienced public sector clients, discussions dominated by contractors and a protracted bidding process.