BSF14a: Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

 

What is Smart PFI?

 

Introduction

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is one of the most influential architectural institutions in the world, and has been promoting architecture and architects since being awarded its Royal Charter in 1837. The 40,000-strong professional institute is committed to serving the public interest through good design. It also represents 85% of registered architects in the UK through its regional structure as well as a significant number of international members.

 

The problem

Both the original and recently revised standard procurement models for schools delivered under the BSF programme waste time, money and effort. The original model operated between 2005 and 2008, and for each sample school this procurement route initially engages three bidders, each led by a main contractor with contracted architects embedded within the bidding consortium. The contractors developed their bids on the basis of a brief prepared by the local authority client, and each produced concept design proposals, site appraisals, ICT strategy and costings. During this process each of the three teams would have a range of meetings and discussions with school officials and teachers, the Local Education Authority, and others to produce a concept design. This would form a key part of the assessment that would result in two bidders going forward to a second stage involving more detailed consultation, technical designs and other development preparation to for m the final bids, following which a successful bidder would emerge.

Starting in October 2007, and concluding in February 2008, Partnerships for Schools undertook a broad review of the BSF procurement route, resulting in recommendations for a number of changes. In this model three bidders are reduced to two earlier in the process, after 29 weeks rather than 44 weeks in the current process. They are also assessed under slightly modified criteria that emphasise their capacity and track record in partnering, as well as the more traditional concept design work, ICT strategising and other preparatory work more usually undertaken by the three bidders at this stage, and the consultation that these elements of the bid entail.

 

This does lead to a reduction in the overall procurement time - down to 75 weeks from the current 82-week model. There are associated time and cost savings in the revised process, including in the level of detail of the design work undertaken, with more detailed elements of the concept design and full technical specification only required from two bidders at the second stage. This re-focusing of the time available for detailed development and completion of design work is a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough in fostering the very best design solutions, still wastes a great deal of time and resources and does not reflect the best practice that exists in other sectors of both public and private procurement.

 

 

The solution

 

The Building Schools for the Future review recommendations do not go far enough. We were deeply disappointed that more progress was not made towards a clearer and more efficient relationship between designing and bidding in BSF, and further steps were not taken that could result in much improved value for money; significant reductions in the time and cost associated with delivering schools through BSF, and an opportunity to increase the quality of the educational transformation delivered through BSF.

 

The RIBA believes that it is fundamental that before engaging with the bidding teams the local authority work out what they want.  We believe that this requires the preparation of a concept design, by the client, to test, refine and finalise the brief. This would mean integrating early design work by the client into the bid process and omitting the time consuming and resource-heavy approach of doing this with multiple separate bidders.

 

The early preparatory work required of the client would start with the establishment of the transformational education strategy, goes on to develop strategic briefs and diagrammatic representations of school organisation, then the application of these to the actual site in a thoroughly researched way to produce a concept design. All this is done with full engagement of stakeholders, including visits by the school representatives, the designers and project teams to other schools. The designs are developed to RIBA stage C or C+ and properly costed to fully ensure that they are affordable and feasible. This work is then made available to bidders as part of the tender documents and brief so that 'they hit the ground running'.

 

Using this model the better advised and supported Local Authority will benefit from the development and testing of a more detailed brief. More time can be spent with one design team refining a brief that suits the Local Authority and better reflects their particular needs and aspirations. This should also ensure that there is increased certainty surrounding budgets and affordability, and quality can be specified at this stage in an open and transparent manner.

 

The bidders are then invited to bid to flesh out and deliver the concept design, to provide their own unique innovation to the proposal, demonstrating betterment where they feel they can bring advantageous changes to bear, and focusing on technical deliver and how to ensure best value on the agreed concept.

 

This would:

reduce the pressure on educationalists and other consultees, as well as the significant associated costs, caused by duplication of effort during the early stages

similarly, avoid duplicate conceptual design work by the bidders

provide more certainty to the client on affordability and quality issues

create a more detailed brief for bidders

place greater emphasis on partnering as the key differentiator in the early selection process

allow bidders to concentrate on the later, more detailed design work, bringing their own innovation to bear and ensure best value is achieved

guarantee a significant reduction in bid costs

 

The outcome

 

The RIBA estimates that the Smart procurement model applied to BSF would save schools upwards of 1 million and reduce the time for procurement by 6 months, if they invested more time and resource upfront in the vital early preparatory stages of the process before going to the market.

 

Next steps

 

We believe a pilot study should be run to prove that investing earlier in the process brings much greater benefits, in terms of increasing design quality while significantly reducing time and financial cost to bidders and client.

 

Much clearer guidance should be provided to procuring authorities on the requirement for, and benefits resulting from more detailed design preparation, including the client-side preparation of a concept design before seeking a delivery partner.

 

 

July 2008