Design Council Cabe considers offering advice as paid service

Design Council Cabe is considering offering paid for advice on procuring design to local councils as part of a “suite” of commercial services to the construction industry.

The admission came as the body this week ramped up its campaign to reform the public procurement of design with the publication of a proposed code of practice for public clients.

In her first interview as director of Design Council Cabe, Nahid Majid said she had detected a “huge need” for specialist advice on procuring design work. A former director of regeneration at cost consultant Turner & Townsend, Majid has also worked at the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and ran the project to create the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford.

She said: “I know from my background in construction how complex it [procurement] is, how time consuming, and the impact that has on the economy.

“We need to look at clear criteria, and guidance we can have to make that process easier. What I would like to explore is [whether] that is one future product for us as an organisation.”

Asked if that meant Design Council Cabe was planning to sell procurement advice, Majid said: “That’s one option we’re looking at. It’s something that we know there’s a huge demand for and we know there’s a huge problem.”

Majid’s comments follow a presentation given by Cabe commissioner Rab Bennett this week, in which he called for reform of the public procurement of design to ensure that the pressure to cut costs didn’t mean that small or high quality architects were cut out of work.

Bennett, speaking on behalf of Cabe, said clients should be given “expert design advice” before procuring architects, and that Cabe or other bodies such as the RIBA could fulfil that role.

He also called for a register of qualified architects so that firms were not made to repeatedly fill in pre-qualification forms, and appropriate selection criteria to ensure that cost didn’t trump quality when selecting designers.

Majid declined to give further details of other paid-for services Cabe will offer, such as design review, in advance of an announcement expected at trade show Mipim in March.