From education to employment

RIBA’s Smart Private Finance Initiative Endorsed by Chief Executive of CIC

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has fully endorsed the Royal Institute of British Architects” (RIBAs”) Smart Private Finance Initiative (PFI), prompted by the Treasury’s statement that it wishes to see greater design work at the early stages of PFI projects.

According to Graham Watts, Chief Executive of the CIC, RIBA’s initiative is very much in sympathy with the CIC’s own views on PFI projects. “The RIBA’s Smart PFI initiative encapsulates concepts that have been developing within the CIC Procurement Panel for a few years, and provides a vehicle for establishing the vital relationship between upfront design and good briefing at the very early states of PFI projects,” he said.

Emphasis on Design

The CIC, which provides a representative forum for the professional bodies, research organisations and specialist trade associations in the construction industry, has been actively seeking to improve the PFI process since its inception in 1988. Driven by concerns about design quality, excessive bid costs, working at risk and the general treatment of risk, it has campaigned for increased participation for CIC members in the PFI process.

A greater emphasis on design at an earlier stage of PFI projects, as advocated by both RIBA and the Treasury, will not only improve the process but also the quality of buildings produced, says the CIC. The development follows an in-depth consultation performed by the RIBA last year on Smart PFI, and is the result of a constructive meeting between the RIBA and the Treasurys PFI team earlier this month.

RIBA Support Treasury Call

RIBA President Jack Pringle confirmed the organisation’s support for the Treasury’s call for greater planning upfront, which is entirely in keeping with the recommendations the RIBA has been actively pursuing over a number of months. “We are pleased that we have been able to play a part in bringing design to the forefront of PFI best practice, and make the most of the Governments investment in our future school and hospital buildings,” said Pringle, adding: “The RIBA hopes to maintain its dialogue with the Treasury over the coming months.”

The Treasury hopes that privately financed schemes will go to the market with greater specification, in order to drive down costs, and has suggested that authorities should do some degree of design work upfront themselves, rather than leaving it to the private sector. RIBA believes improved design work at the beginning of the project will result in better public buildings overall, with the associated improvement in education and health delivery, while allowing a more accurate assessment of project costs.

Whether the authorities will be provided with the additional funding to support this upfront design work remains unclear, however. The project will require willingness on the part of the privately financed schemes to streamline their specifications, but this will undoubtedly come into conflict with their financial interests. Time will tell if upfront planning can compel those individuals who stand to lose from providing greater specification, to cooperate in the interest of the general good.

Michelle Price

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