School buildings design shake-up

Changes to procurement being worked on by schools delivery agency Partnerships for Schools (PfS) could see councils choosing a design team from a pre-selected framework of firms.

PfS has also proposed changes to the way ICT is delivered under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Ideas being discussed include procuring ICT separately to the rest of the scheme and providing early funding for ICT in schools in the later phases of BSF.

The announcements, revealed at the agency’s design conference in London today, are part of the its push to a 52-week procurement process.

Under the proposals, a firm chosen from the new design framework would work on exemplar designs for a council’s BSF sample schools. PfS said it was "working closely" with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on the idea.

"Removing design from the competitive process is simply not possible, but working together with the RIBA we will look to test the concept of exemplar designs," said Tim Byles, PfS chief executive.

RIBA’s president Ruth Reed said: "A good procurement process starts with good preparation by the client, ensuring maximum contact between the clients/users and the designers and proceeds efficiently to build an integrated design and construction team to deliver the project.

"‘Smart PFI’ was the RIBA’s proposal to bring these principles to pubic private partnerships while adhering to European Procurement Rules."

Other measures to speed up procurement announced included a centralised vetting system, which was reported on by the PPP Bulletin in September.

Firms bidding for projects will have to submit a single pre-qualification questionnaire to PfS rather than completing one for each project they bid on. This is expected to slice 10 weeks off procurement.