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Healthy design

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It is hard to tame the PFI beast, with its in-built bias against exemplary design. The Treasury has recognised the problem, and will shortly issue a document on how to achieve good design within this form of procurement. But improving things on the ground can be done, as demonstrated by John Cole, the architect who heads consultancy services for the Northern Ireland Department of Health. Speaking at an Architects for Health meeting at the Reform Club last week, Cole explained how he commissioned exemplary designs in advance of PFI bids, giving a minimum standard for bidders to achieve. Attempts to block him have thus far failed, since he uses lawyers and the majesty of European law to back up his policies. Can you imagine what Barry's Reform would have looked like as a PFI building?

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