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Call for architects to boycott housing association’s price-over-quality framework

uninspiring housing

North Wales’ largest social housing provider has been slammed over its new construction consultancy framework, which prioritises low cost over design quality

Procurement reform group Project Compass criticised Bangor-based Adra for specifying criteria ’bordering on negligence’, because the new framework will be evaluated 70 per cent on price and 30 per cent on quality.

Project Compass director Russell Curtis said: ‘In light of the revelations from the Grenfell inquiry, it seems astonishing that any client would consider prioritising cost over quality to this degree.

‘Balancing a tender so highly in favour of price borders on negligence, and certainly treats the value that architects bring to projects with contempt. I would encourage any architect considering applying for this framework to direct their efforts elsewhere.’

Key conclusions to emerge from the Grenfell inquiry have included the revelation that the architect, Studio E maintained intentionally low fees so it could remain on the project, despite its lack of experience in high-rise refurbishments.

Founded in 2010, Adra manages about 6,300 homes across North Wales. The new framework is expected to cover between £1.5 million to £3.5 million-worth of consultancy work relating to the design and delivery of new affordable housing developments.

In response to the criticism, an Adra spokesperson said: ‘Quality is one of our top priorities. That’s why we carry out a set of rigorous checks on all consultancy disciplines that wish to submit a tender to be included on our framework.

‘These measures ensure that we consider competence and technical ability as well as cost as part of our overall value-for-money assessment of tenders.

‘Any supplier that does not satisfactorily meet our quality checks are informed that they have been unsuccessful and their tender will not be considered further, no matter what the cost. This is because quality is crucial to us.’

The spokesperson said that only teams which pass ‘relevant rigorous quality checks’ will have an opportunity to complete the 70 per cent price and 30 per cent quality assessment which involves a series of checks testing consultants’ ’understanding of our priorities, scope and requirements’.

The spokesperson said: ‘As an organisation that receives public funding and is providing homes that include affordable homes, social rent homes, to meet the local housing needs of the people in North Wales, we are required to consider price and demonstrate value for money.’

But Curtis said Adra was ‘missing the point’, as the fee proposal would only reveal ‘how much resource each bidder will spend servicing a project’ but could not reflect an ‘assessment of historic capability’.

He said: ‘Value for money is not achieved by placing so much emphasis on cost – it’s simply asking which practice is prepared to spend the least amount of time working on it.’

The framework is divided into nine lots covering architecture, planning consultancy, surveying, engineering, quantity surveying, mechanical and electrical design, ecological and environmental consultancy, arboriculture services and principal designer services.


Readers' comments (2)

  • I'm not a great lover of competitive tenders as I believe that they are one of the drivers of poor performance- they are certainly one of the reasons why architectural salaries are so low. Best value does not mean lowest price. A competitive tender is unlikely to be the best way to select an architect who is the most suitable for the project. However, given that it is likely that a significant number of practices will score 100% on quality irrespective of what percentage it is of the judging criteria, it will be the fee which will be the decider so does it matter that the split is 70/30 or 10/80? I'm not sure it does.

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  • Assessing how well a practice delivers quality is difficult. Unless some form of test or competitive interview process is used the fee bid will always win out. Of course any Competitive design proposal should be remunerated but rarely is except in the most prestigious commissions.

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