Good design can help save costs, says minister

Construction minister Mark Prisk has sought to reassure architects that the government’s drive to standardise public buildings will not cut them out of procurement.

He said that the government valued good design, which could actually help cut construction costs.

Alongside the Budget two weeks ago the government committed to cut construction procurement costs by 20% partly through standardising buildings and cutting out “bespoke” design.

Speaking to journalists this morning, Prisk said: “The point here is that we need to do is look at sensible cost models. That does not remove the opportunity in design and improvements in design. Innovative design can…aid that cost reduction.”

He said that one problem was that public bodies had often added on extras to designs, which took them away from the architect’s original plans.

“What it’s [standardisation] trying to do is not have a completely uniformity but avoid different bodies tacking on different elements, by a process of incremental addition,” he said.

When asked whether architects would play less of a process in public construction procurement than under Labour, Prisk said: “It’s difficult to judge. We do value the role of good design.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove has repeatedly attacked architects over their role in the scrapped Building Schools for the Future programme, saying that they had “creamed off cash”.

Prisk also denied that there was a contradiction between the government’s aim to have longer-term frameworks – another way in which it plans to hit the 20% target – and give SMEs move public sector work. “We want frameworks to help the whole supply chain, not just tier one,” he said.

 “When we talk about standardisation, it allows medium size businesses to compete.”