The rebuild of the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art could be determined by the cheapest price over quality due to a flawed tender system, a leading Scottish architect has warned.


Paul Stallan, co-founder of Glasgow-based Stallan Brand, believes the cultural importance of the rebuild of the world-renowned Mackintosh building should prevail with the right team chosen over the cheapest price.
He said that a strict formula which prefers price over quality will not only rule out skilful architects bidding for the rebuild tender, including his own firm, but claims the architect team which presents the cheapest price to undertake the work at the Art School can have a poor-to-average quality score and win the contract.

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And  the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has spoken out saying it supports a procurement process that balances cost with achieving the best possible design outcomes.

HeraldScotland: Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in 2018Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in 2018
Mr Stallan admits they have ruled out applying for the GSA’s rebuild tender and believes the tender assessment criteria being applied should be reviewed.
He says there is an issue around the application of a relative quality price assessment methodology, sometimes known as the 60:40 quality against cost method, which GSA is applying in its selection process.

HeraldScotland: Crowds looked on as firefighters battled the 2018 blazeCrowds looked on as firefighters battled the 2018 blaze
Mr Stallan, best known for designing the 2014 Commonwealth Games Village and his work on the Falkirk Wheel and Scottish Parliament, added: “There is so much emotion for the building and you just want it to be right. For something as important as the rebuild of the Glasgow School of Art, with the procurement process, you would think you would want to drill down that little bit more to look at what the formula is offering.
“There is no room for mediation or negotiation with these types of tenders it is almost a case of what the computer says. You put all the scores in and out pops an answer and we have so many clients that come back to us and say they didn’t actually understand that. If there is the highest quality with reasonable costs why wouldn’t it come first?
“It is a default template which is downloaded from the Scottish Government website. This ratio has such a universal impact and it is driving the most common denominator as people are looking at the maths and they are buying work based on that system.”

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Mr Stallan said that there has to be compliance with what is known as MEAT, the ‘most economically advantageous tender,’ but there are four ways to calculate that and the worst one was chosen.
“We are not saying don’t have a quality price, but make quality a feature so that it is balanced and that there is no sneaky, multiplier on cost,” he added.
“It might be the way things have been done for years, but it is actually flawed. It is not about trying to do something clever. It is something your granny would understand – if you are going shopping and you pay a little bit more for quality, that is it, but it is when weightings are applied it becomes abstract.”

HeraldScotland: Paul Stallan has spoken out over fears of the GSA rebuild tender processPaul Stallan has spoken out over fears of the GSA rebuild tender process
Mr Stallan, who has previously been invited to speak at the Harvard Design School and Glasgow School of Art, said they have been approached by a wide group of local and international architects to ask whether they might be interested in applying for the project.
He added: “We have the conservation skills, a complete intimacy with the building and the community, hopefully the sensitivity, scale of studio, and the design profile to possibly be considered.
“However, we would not be the cheapest and, as a consequence of the procurement formula, we know we would not succeed.
“We have lost through the Relative Percentage Assessment tender process, where, despite having the highest score in quality and industry average costs applied, we have bombed. It’s debilitating for the team, as each of these tenders requires huge amounts of work.
“There are also clients who we have worked with that have gone through tender process and not got the outcome they think they are going to get. I suspect the Art School is heading in this direction completely unaware.”
The multi-million pound contracts for teams to lead the reinstatement of Glasgow School of Art's fire ravaged Mackintosh building were put out to tender last year.
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) which says it supports a procurement process that balances cost with achieving the best possible design outcomes.
A RIAS spokesman said: “The Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art is recognised as a true Scottish icon and one of the world’s architectural treasures. The RIAS support Glasgow School of Art’s aim to reinstate their much-loved building.
“The RIAS are in support of a procurement process that balances cost with achieving the best possible design outcomes. This is a vitally important building for the city of Glasgow, and we would like to see a process which supports the very best architects to compete to produce a building of outstanding quality.”

HeraldScotland: A faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh building is proposedA faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh building is proposed
Eleanor Magennis, GSA Director of Estates said “We fully understand the concerns and complexities around procurement that have been shared and for The Glasgow School of Art we have worked hard to ensure that the procurement process is robust and transparent. Central to our approach is a two-stage tender process with the first stage, which is currently open, based only on quality of past experience. The second stage is based on both quality and cost. At both stages tenders will be assessed rigorously and fairly ensuring we select the best team to work with us on delivering the Mackintosh Building reinstatement project”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it is always open to discussing how to restore and refurbish Scotland’s buildings with the RIAS.
He added: “However, RIAS will always know that procurement needs to be conducted lawfully and that contract award decisions should be taken on the basis of the best price to quality ratio assessment of bids.
“That allows for some of the matters it has raised to be factored in but ultimately, it is for the procuring body to determine the most appropriate balance between price and quality for a particular contract.”
In January a long-awaited report into the fire that ravaged the Glasgow School of Art for a second time concluded that the cause may never be known but wilful fire raising and electrical failure could not be "fully discounted."
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) published the findings of its investigation into the 2018 fire that caused catastrophic damage to the prized Mackintosh Building as it neared the end of a £35million restoration project following a previous blaze in May 2014.