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Design Build Foundation may out-price architects

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The Design Build Foundation has vowed to keep construction 'design-led' at the launch of its new registration scheme. But it is risking alienating some architects by charging practices a fee of £10,000 to join and a further £1000 more every year to remain on board.

Registration group chairman Dr Bernard Rimmer said last week at the House of Commons launch, in front of hundreds of senior staff from the cream of uk construction firms, that the new scheme, designed to lift quality and minimise waste in line with the Egan report, 'is not about putting architects in a subsidiary position. We're not about treading on design. We're making sure we'll be design-led.'

But the registration scheme, launched last week for dbf member contractors only, with later campaigns for non-members, specialist suppliers, architects and clients (aj 13.5.99), will cost £10,250+vat plus a further £1000 for contractors to go through a number of hoops and emerge as accredited suppliers. 'It looks a lot of money, but in relation to cutting-edge businesses it's the best value for money perhaps you'll ever spend,' said Rimmer. When the scheme for architects is launched next March, they are expected to payu about the same amount as wealthy construction firms such as Tarmac, which was first to sign up to the scheme last week. Only some of the largest practices might have the cash to benefit.

The dbf has devised, with bre, a long, complex and stringent system of qualifying procedure to guarantee customer satisfaction through a single source of responsibility. As research to hone the scheme it commissioned Reading University to look at the failures and successes of existing schemes. Aims are ranged around encouraging and measuring 'innovative, buildable solutions', value, ethics, and 'mutually rewarding' relationships with peer-group assessment. Insurance benefits of membership may be available, along with a logo, and the ability to offer membership as an alternative to pre-qualification processes from dbf customer members.

Construction minister Nick Raynsford said he hoped that the dbf registration scheme would help the image of the industry and develop 'demonstrable and rigorous' performance measures.

Rimmer added: 'The industry needs help to improve and assist in producing better value but has not been well served by single-interest bodies on their own. It is extremely difficult to move the industry on if it is only through narrow disciplines.' For this reason Rimmer has just resigned his membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers because he does not regard it as 'important for time or business'.

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