Architects have called for radical reforms to public sector procurement rules, which they said cost them some £40 million a year to make bids.
The Royal Institute of British Architects called in a report Building Ladders of Opportunity for less bureaucratic procurement systems and for an end to rules that exclude smaller firms from bidding for many contracts advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union.
A RIBA members’ survey found that earnings from building projects advertised in the OJEU made up 29 per cent of architectural practices total earnings, rising to 40 per cent for the largest firms.
It estimated that the profession spent £40m a year overall in preparing bids.
RIBA said fewer organisations should be ensnared in public sector procurement bureaucracy and that this could be achieved by clarifying the definition of ‘bodies governed by public law’ .
It also called for shorter, simpler and standardised pre-qualification questionnaires.
In its recommendations for change the RIBA said the OJEU process “is widely recognised as overly complex and bureaucratic” and had become “gold-plated” in the UK, with stricter rules than elsewhere in the EU.
“Evidence clearly shows that the UK public sector’s implementation of the procurement process makes it more complex and costly than in other comparable EU countries,” it said.
Bid criteria should be proportionate to a project’s value so that fewer small firms were excluded, in particular by requirements for a minimum annual turnover from bidders.
RIBA said turnover requirements effectively excluded 85 per cent of UK architectural practices from many contracts.
President Angela Brady (pictured) said: “This does not encourage a competitive market for design which means clients do not get the quality and innovation that they deserve.”
The survey found that architects believed that financial criteria were the main grounds for public contract awards, “with design quality and technical skills perceived to be the least important”.
It said this gave rise to poorly designed buildings that were costly to maintain, and called instead for construction contracts awards to be “always made to the ‘most economically advantageous tender’, instead of the lowest priced bid, which fails to take into account a building’s whole life costs”.
It said onerous requirements for architects to demonstrate their experience should be dropped so that these ceased to “lock out innovative designers”.