Incoming RIBA president plans to tackle public sector design procurement that penalises small firms

Design Council Cabe is poised to throw its weight behind efforts by the new RIBA president to reform public sector procurement.

Angela Brady, who takes over from RIBA president Ruth Reed on 1 September, wants to tackle what she describes as a risk-averse procurement system that rewards mediocre design and penalises small firms. She is setting up a pan-industry taskforce to recommend changes.

Design Council Cabe chairman Paul Finch has signalled his support for reform, claiming there is a new opportunity to influence the government. “We are supportive of what the RIBA is doing and I’m sure we will want to contribute,” Finch said.

“The emphasis on quality within the National Planning Policy Framework makes it highly appropriate for us to look at this.”

Finch added that there was “no magic wand” to improve procurement but said the government needed to consider how the system influenced efforts to reduce carbon emissions as well as cost and quality.

This comes amid concerns raised by architects including Rab Bennetts, that design quality is being compromised by the scoring systems used to select designers for public work under the OJEU.

Bennetts claims that the weighting of pre-qualification questionnaires and other scoring criteria prioritises experience above quality and is encouraging suicide bidding.

The move comes after the government published a new strategy for procuring construction in June, written by chief construction adviser Paul Morrell.

Brady told Building the issue was particularly important as public sector work was effectively out of reach to the 90% of architectural firms with less than 10 staff.

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