The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) responded to today's statement by Partnerships for Schools (PfS) on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) process.
In a statement, RIBA President Sunand Prasad said:
'The review by Partnerships for Schools (PfS) presents a rare opportunity to address some of the key issues surrounding the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) process.
We have been encouraged by the open and inclusive manner in which the review has been undertaken. The review's preliminary findings are a step in the right direction, but we believe that there are some fundamental issues that require further thinking.
We believe it is fundamental that before engaging with the bidding teams the local authority work out what they want. This requires a plan for transformational education, a vision for the environment necessary to support it, and how these might be realised on the chosen sites within realistic budgets. This in turn requires the preparation of a concept design to test, refine and finalise this brief. This suite of information must be made available to bidders in full as part of the bid information to help them hit the ground running.
The RIBA welcomes the proposed reduction in bid time and costs combined with increased time for design by two bidders rather than three. We also note the important commitment by PfS to increase preparation by the public sector client before procurement of the private sector partner.
However, we are disappointed that:
1) There are no details as regards the required level of preparations by local authorities, nor how this crucial work is to be funded. No amount of tinkering with the bid process can overcome a lack of preparation by the public sector client.
2) A narrow interpretation of procurement doctrine is preventing the next logical step from being taken, which is to integrate early design work by the client into the bid process. This would:
avoid duplicate conceptual design work by the 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
We look forward to continuing to work with PfS to ensure that the whole BSF process, from the statement of an LEA's ambition to the delivery of transformational education, is of the highest possible quality.'