Glasgow School of Art Mac rebuild ‘could be down in price’

Rebuilding the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art could be determined by cheapest price versus quality due to a faulty tendering system, a leading Scottish architect has warned.

Paul Stallan, co-founder of Glasgow-based Stallan Brand, believes the cultural significance of rebuilding the world famous Mackintosh building should prevail with the right team chosen rather than the cheapest price.

He said a strict formula that prioritises price over quality will not only exclude skilled architects bidding on the reconstruction tender, including his own firm, but says the team of architects presenting the cheapest price to undertake the work at the art school may have a low to medium quality score and win the contract.

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And the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has come out in favor of a procurement process that balances costs while achieving the best possible design results.

The Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in 2018
Mr Stallan admits they have ruled out applying for the GSA reconstruction tender and believes the bid evaluation criteria applied should be reviewed.
He says there is a problem around the application of a relative quality pricing methodology, sometimes known as the 60:40 quality versus cost method, which the GSA applies in its process of selection.

Glasgow Times: Crowds watched as firefighters battle the 2018 blazeCrowds watched firefighters battle the 2018 blaze
Mr Stallan, best known for designing the 2014 Commonwealth Games Village and his work on the Falkirk Wheel and the Scottish Parliament, added: “There is so much excitement about the building and you just want that he is perfect. For something as important as the rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art, with the procurement process, you’d think you’d have to dig a little deeper to see what the formula delivers.

“There’s no room for mediation or negotiation with these types of tenders, it’s almost a case of what the computer says. You put all the scores in and out of the answer and we have so many customers who come back to us and say they didn’t really understand that.If there is the best quality at reasonable costs, why wouldn’t it come first?

“This is a default template which is downloaded from the Scottish Government website. This ratio has such a universal impact that it is the source of the most common denominator as people look at math and buy work based on this system.”

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Mr Stallan said it had to comply with what is called MEAT, ‘the most economically advantageous offer’, but there are four ways to calculate this and the worst was chosen.

“We’re not saying there isn’t a quality price, but make quality a feature so it’s balanced and there’s no sneaky multiplier on cost,” a- he added.

“It may be the way things have been done for years, but it’s actually flawed. It’s not about trying to do something smart. It’s something your grandma would understand – if you shop around and pay a little more for quality, that’s it, but it’s when weightings are applied that it becomes abstract.

Glasgow Times: Paul Stallan has spoken out over fears over the tender process for the GSA rebuildPaul Stallan has spoken out on fears over the tender process for the GSA reconstruction
Mr Stallan, who has previously been invited to speak at Harvard Design School and the Glasgow School of Art, said they had been approached by a large group of local and international architects to ask if they might be interested in applying for the project.

He added: “We have the curatorial skills, complete intimacy with the building and the community, hopefully the sensibility, studio scale and design profile to consider eventually.

“However, we wouldn’t be the cheapest, and because of the procurement formula, we know we wouldn’t be successful.

“We lost in the Relative Percentage Evaluation bidding process, where despite scoring the highest in quality and industry average cost, we bombed. It’s debilitating for the team, because each of these tenders requires a lot of work.

“There are also clients we have worked with who have gone through a bidding process and have not gotten the result they thought they would get. I suspect the art school is heading in this completely unconscious direction.

The multi-million pound contracts for crews to refurbish the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building went up for tender last year.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), who say they support a procurement process that balances costs while achieving the best possible design results.

A spokesperson for RIAS said: “The Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building is recognized as a true Scottish icon and one of the world’s architectural treasures. The RIAS supports the Glasgow School of Art’s aim to restore its much-loved building.

“RIAS supports a procurement process that balances costs while achieving the best possible design results. This is a building of vital importance to the City of Glasgow, and we would like to see a process that helps the best architects compete to produce a building of exceptional quality.

Glasgow Times: A faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh building is proposedA faithful reintegration of the Mackintosh building is proposed
Eleanor Magennis, GSA Estates Director, said: “We fully understand the procurement concerns and complexities that have been shared and for Glasgow School of Art we have worked hard to ensure that the process of supply is solid and transparent.

“Central to our approach is a two-stage bidding process, the first stage, currently open, based solely on the quality of past experience. The second stage is based on both quality and the cost.

“At both stages, bids will be evaluated rigorously and fairly to select the best team to work with us on the completion of the Mackintosh Building restoration project.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it was still open to discussing how to restore and renovate Scottish buildings with the RIAS.

He added: “However, RIAS will always know that procurement must be done legally and that contract award decisions must be made on the basis of the best value for money assessment of bids.

“It takes into account some of the issues he raised, but ultimately it’s up to the contracting 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 tore through the Glasgow School of Art for the second time concluded that the cause may never be known, but that arson and power failure could not be “entirely ignored “.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has published the findings of its investigation into the 2018 fire which caused catastrophic damage to the prized Mackintosh building as it neared the end of a £35 million restoration project pounds following a previous fire in May 2014.

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