Procurement opportunity must be grasped

Procurement related guidance and advice has been coming thick and fast in recent weeks. Almost hidden away at the end of the announcement about housing safety measures announced in Parliament by UK Secretary of State Michael Gove in January was publication of a new guidance document titled Collaborative Procurement Guidance for Design and Construction to Support Building Safety.

The Guidance seeks to learn from the Grenfell Tower disaster, co-authored by construction law specialist Professor David Mosey and Russell Poynter-Brown of On Pole Ltd on behalf of the King’s College London Centre of Construction Law. Contributions were also made by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Procurement Advisory Group.

The Guidance is designed to complement the December 2020 Construction Playbook and the recommendations in Professor Mosey’s recent review report Constructing the Gold Standard, published by the Cabinet Office in December last year.

Professor Mosey is this month’s Guest Editor, and as his chosen topic is the Constructing the Gold Standard report we can confidently refer readers there for an explanation of what it is all about. Focussing on the operation of the seemingly ubiquitous construction frameworks, it has attracted a lot of comment and support and could prove to be that very rare beast, a raft of recommendations that have a chance of being adopted and likely therefore to have a real impact on improving construction procurement.

The collaborative procurement guidance document is designed to address construction procurement shortcomings identified in the Dame Judith Hackitt report on the Grenfell disaster. That report highlighted adversarial practices that encouraged a ‘race to the bottom’ on price that in turn undermined the ability of contractors to deliver on safety and quality. Professor Mosey and colleagues at King’s College took on the development of the guidance pro bono for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)

The Guidance is based on the premise that preventing another disaster with the same sorts of causes as the Grenfell Tower tragedy depends on the major overhaul of construction procurement practices proposed by Dame Judith. The Guidance says that approvals for any ‘in scope’ new build or refurbishment require evidence of major changes to developer procurement practices. Chief among them perhaps is avoiding the race to the bottom by selecting construction teams on value criteria, and this encompasses the safety of designs, works and products.

Contractors and suppliers should be appointed early on a conditional basis, to improve and agree safety proposals and reduce risks. Teams should be integrated through collaborative contracts that take account of consultations with residents. The design, construction and operation of buildings and refurbishments should be supported by a ‘golden thread’ of digital information.

Ensuring adoption of the new Guidance by all public and private sector developers and by all consultants and contractors is the next stage, which the DLUHC says will involve further consultation, training and clarification of the procedures to be used by the new HSE Building Safety Regulator.

The industry now knows what needs to be done and has been told how to do it. This could be the best chance to significantly change construction procurement for the better for several generations; it should be grasped. CL

Nick Barrett

* Constructing the Gold Standard can be found at
* The Guidance can be seen at: