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PFI process militates against design rewards

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It is always nice to receive favourable comment in the press (AJ 15.2.01), but your editorial on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) process, together with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's review of our scheme for Brighton Library and the surrounding buildings, disguises a fundamental flaw in the PFI process.

The problem is that the scale of investment required by designers in the PFI system far outweighs the rewards. You only have to look at BDP's financial results, reported in the same issue, to see the impact of PFI bids on the largest of firms.

Clearly, the PFI system needs radical reform if it is going to attract good designers on a regular basis.Why would an architect of repute wish to get involved (a) if their business might take a hammering or (b) if they have alternative things to do?

Will Alsop tells me that there are some PFI consortia which are prepared to pay full fees at the bid stage, but feedback from other architects suggests this must be a very small minority. I have already made representations to HM Treasury and the Office of Government Commerce about the difficulties of PFI and the conflict with design quality and hope that other architects can do the same.

Although the selection procedure used in Brighton ensured an appropriate level of design quality, I hope that it doesn't turn out to be a one-off.

Rab Bennetts, Bennetts Associates, London EC1

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