A top civil servant has held up Foster and Partners' £490 million refurbishment of the Treasury building in London as an example of how PFI can improve design within the public sector.
Sir Andrew Turnbull, permanent secretary to the Treasury, hit back at accusations that PFI produces bad design at the opening of the flagship project last Friday. 'This project has delivered exactly what we wanted for many years - an efficient, modern workspace, ' he said.
And he added: 'Nobody has ever proved to me that this procurement method leads to bad design.
In fact, PFI projects ought to have a better chance of good design.' Turnbull claimed it was in the interests of contractors to demand it because they are responsible for servicing the building after completion. However, he admitted that a fundamental problem with public sector procurement is the failure to provide decent briefs: 'If you provide an extensive design outline that has involved the building's future occupants, then you can expect an excellent building.'And he added that the Office of Government Commerce is determined to push ahead with the initiative.
The project comprised a massive refurbishment of the west end of the Grade II-listed building on Great George Street, with wholesale changes to its internal fabric.
The scheme included the refurbishment of 650 rooms, 8.7 miles of corridors, and 1,750 windows, as well as the complete renewal of all mechanical and electrical services. It has created open-plan offices, bringing to an end the culture of individual offices that the Turnbull said had undermined healthy professional communication.