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Ryder set for PFI healthcare first

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The world's ninth biggest practice, Ryder HKS, is set to challenge the status quo in healthcare PFI projects by becoming the first architecture firm to financially lead a consortium, the AJ has learnt.

The Newcastle-based office - formed when Ryder merged with US giant HKS - is currently negotiating to run a consortium to build an unnamed £25 million hospital in the North East.

Observers have welcomed the move, claiming it would solve many of the design problems associated with PFI by elevating the role of the architect.

Ryder director Mark Thompson said the practice concluded 'some months ago' there was no reason why it should not run a consortium.'As long as we have the right people working for us looking after finances then there is nothing to stop us, 'he said.

'We are trying to get the best from both the current PFI model and the old procurement methods where the architect had primacy, 'Thompson added.

CABE commissioner Richard Feilden, a specialist in education PFI projects, described the move as 'an exciting proposition'.

'One of the real concerns over PFI is the unnatural separation between the client and the architect, 'he said.'There is never enough contact, but if the architect was running the show this problem could be solved.'

Other practices have also expressed interest in taking a more forceful role in PFI.

Anshen Dyer director John Cooper said his practice has 'certainly had a look at whether we'd be able to do it'.

'I think for relatively small projects it could work. It would be good news for both the designs and the practice's profit margins, 'Cooper added.

Nightingale Associates founding partner Mike Nightingale agreed that 'it was an area we are thinking of getting into'.He revealed that the practice is one of three lead firms in a consortium that has won a contract to build and run a series of small private 'treatment centres' for the NHS.

'However, I will be impressed if Ryder manages to do this as it would be financially difficult for most practices, 'he added.

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