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Design and build was right for Manchester

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Letters

In the feature on the Manchester International Convention Centre you questioned whether a major public building should be constructed using the design and build procurement method. You also noted signs of poor workmanship, which you say is an inevitable result of design and build.

Liz Partridge of Sheppard Robson is correct when she says that the city council is keen on design and build - it has been used successfully on the Bridgewater Hall, the Manchester Aquatics Centre and now the Convention Centre. The decision to use design and build was not taken in isolation. Sheppard Robson as lead consultant and the rest of the design team were involved in the decision process and fully supportive of the procurement route.

Many factors have to be taken into account when choosing a procurement route, and it is easy once a project is complete to question if the correct procurement route was chosen.

The main reason for choosing design and build in this case was because of funding - design work started in earnest in 1998, the European funding package was approved in December 1998, works started on site in January 1999 and were completed on budget in December 2000.

If any of your readers can suggest an alternative procurement method that could have delivered a £21 million project in two-and-a-half years on budget then I would be grateful to hear about it.

The city council and the design team were conscious that the quality aspirations for the project were very high. This was achieved primarily by novating the design team to Carillion to ensure continuity of the design.

Careful preparation of Employer's Requirements and specifications and the appointment of a clerk of works (Hickton Consultants) also contributed significantly to achieving a high level of quality in the finished works.

Carillion, the city council and, indeed, the design team would dispute that there is 'plenty of evidence of bodging'.

With hindsight, different decisions may have been taken about some of the finished materials and details. This is the same with most construction projects, irrespective of the procurement route.

The city council is satisfied that the project fulfils its original aspirations - and the final finishes specifications did not have to be reduced in order to achieve cost savings, as is often the case on major projects. I am in no doubt that the correct procurement route was chosen. The project team should be proud that a much-criticised procurement route resulted in such a high-quality civic building.

Also, please note that the scheme was project managed by the Special Projects Office of Manchester City Council and not Davis Langdon & Everest as stated in your credits.

Steve Jordan, senior project manager, Manchester City Council

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