• 11 Apr 2019

Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement - RIAI Report

RIAI recommends changes in public procurement process to deliver better outcomes

Survey of RIAI-registered architects shows that 49% of practices don’t tender for public works due to issues in procurement process. Lack of a clearly defined brief at the outset of public projects identified as key issue.


Dublin, April 12 - The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) today published a report titled Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement’outlining recommendations to improve the public procurement process and achieve better outcomes.

The RIAI believes that current procurement systems do not embed design innovation and impact quality of outcomes which can lead to higher whole-life costs. The procurement process focuses frequently on minimising the cost of design and construction, rather than achieving value for money, bringing architects into the process later than is advisable, and therefore achieving sub-optimal outcomes in respect of both capital cost and the cost of long-term performance.

RIAI President, David Browne said: “The Government and public bodies are the largest procurers of architecture and design services in the State. Good design adds value to the quality of the project and to the public realm. The current procurement system needs to be recalibrated to achieve better long-term results and value for money from Government investment.

Significant improvements to the procurement process can be made across the whole construction sector by improving the quality of the brief and embedding construction expertise within public sector bodies. Poor briefs, including limited information on design specifications, add to the overall time and cost to bring new public sector developments to completion, compared to private developments.”

Report Recommendations

The RIAI report on public procurement includes a number of recommendations to improve the process:

  • To assist public bodies develop functional and clear design briefs, an internal client design advisory team consisting of relevant professionals should be put in place. The purpose of this advisory team will be to provide expert rigorous challenge and oversight throughout the design, permitting contingencies to deal with procurement and construction phases of each project to be dealt with as they arise.
  • Until briefing documents are finalised, tenders should be sought on a percentage basis, rather than fixed fee basis, with allowances to be made for contingencies during the project. Once the brief is finalised, a fixed fee may be agreed.
  • The process to assess eligibility to tender for work should be streamlined though the use of ‘Procurement Passports’ where architects and construction professionals would provide all relevant information to a centralised agency on an annual basis in order to be added to a panel who would be automatically eligible to tender for appropriate projects.
  • For smaller projects, especially those run by inexperienced clients, a similar advisory team should be established to provide technical assistance on design briefs before tenders are sought and to work collaboratively during the life of the contract.
  • It is recommended that Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Professional Services be established and written into the contract at the outset.
  • Projects in some cases are awarded before capital funding has been secured for the delivery of the project. This results in delays in commencing projects making it difficult for construction professionals to allocate resources and schedule other work. Public bodies should not appoint design teams (or expose them to the cost of tendering for public projects) until the funding to deliver the project is in place.
  • A mechanism is required to exclude companies with a track record of non-performance on previous contracts from tendering for public contracts in the future.
  • Clear roles and responsibilities and accountability of all members of the project team must be set out in the project brief.

The report was triggered by a 2018 survey of RIAI registered architects which showed that almost half of architectural practices do not compete for public projects. The RIAI survey of Irish architectural practices showed that while 51% of firms do compete for publicly procured works, a significant number do not. Architectural practices cited poor design briefs, unclear requirements, uncertainty about the extent of the commission and timescale of the proposed development and weak knowledge of design issues by procurement agencies as reasons for their reluctance to tender for public works contracts.

The full report can be found here: Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement


For media queries, please contact:
Grace Cooney, Drury|Porter Novelli, 086 153 6886/ grace.cooney@drurypn.ie
Fiona O’Connor, Drury|Porter Novelli, 087 694 9601 / fiona.oconnor@drurypn.ie
Dr Sandra O'Connell, RIAI Director of Architecture and Communications, T 01 6691474, soconnell@riai.ie

About the RIAI
Founded in 1839, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland supports and regulates the architectural profession and promotes the value that architecture brings to society for everyone’s benefit. Follow us on Twitter for regular updates: @RIAIonline