New guidelines for government clients puts architects at heart of bidding process.
The government is set to announce new guidelines that will enhance the role of design within private finance initiative schemes.

The announcement is due to take place at a conference organised by the Treasury taskforce that advises government departments on technical issues surrounding procurement.

The conference, which is also being organised by consultant Capita, will be addressed by Stuart Lipton, chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. It will be chaired by Tim Wilson, head of the Treasury's private finance policy team.

Lipton told Building: "We've been working closely with the Treasury in regard to construction and specifically with Mike Burt of the Government Client Construction Panel, and Tim Wilson, who've been wonderful. Design will be given a higher profile within PFI with this guidance." The conference follows the news revealed in Building on 25 February that CABE was working with the Treasury to examine the place of design in PFI procurement.

It follows criticism that departments were only interested in obtaining the lowest bid, regardless of how a building was designed.

The guidelines will set out how good design can be achieved in PFI schemes and give departments criteria for judging whether it has. They will also recommend that departments insist that bidders state who their design team will be at the start of bidding, and that the team is involved at an earlier stage.

Ken Brazier, member of the private finance policy team at the Treasury, said: "We want to rebut criticism that PFI is simply about getting the cheapest solution. For some time government departments have failed to address design issues in the PFI competition process. We have anecdotal evidence that design is not thought about by government departments until too late, after costing are worked out."

He added: "PFI is still about value for money. But procurers are sometimes blinkered when it comes to design. What we want to do is plant a thought in the mind of departments that design must be a higher consideration."

A spokesperson for CABE said: "It is very promising that design is being allowed a role in the PFI process. We would hope to play a major enabling role where our contribution would be of value."

Keith Williams, partner in architect Pawson Williams added: "It's a very positive move in terms of the future. I doubt that the guidelines will be far reaching enough, but it's a step in the right direction."