The Major Contractors Group and architectural watchdog CABE are close to announcing an agreement to make design one of the main criteria for assessing PFI bids.
The news emerged as CABE chairman Sir Stuart Lipton renewed his attack on contractors and the Labour government for the poor design and quality of PFI buildings.

He said: "Some contractors have not to date distinguished themselves in looking after the product or the customer."

Bill Tallis, director of the Major Contractors Group, described Lipton's remarks as "unfortunate".

He said: "We are looking at where we can productively work together and work up a joint statement."

The MCG and CABE have been in talks about issuing a statement that emphasises the role of design. This is expected early next year.

It is expected that the agreement will stipulate that design must be a main criterion when it comes to deciding who wins a PFI bid.

Some companies have not to date distinguished themselves

Sir Stuart Lipton, CABE

Keith Clarke, former MCG chairman and Skanska executive vice-chairman, said clients could do more to influence contractors. He said: "Creating better public buildings is a right and proper objective. It all comes down to the question you ask contractors when they bid."

One contractor close to the MCG said that in a meeting over the summer the MCG and CABE had agreed to make firms more aware of the importance of design. It is believed that this could include telling clients to raise the issue of design early in the tender process.

CABE has long argued that selecting consortiums for PFI and public building projects should be based on best value rather than capital cost.