The Government has recently announced the first schools to qualify for the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP). Whilst we await further details of how the programme will be delivered, and the order in which the schools will be progressed, some things already seem certain.
Firstly, all but the initial batch are likely to be procured via a batched PFI/PPP arrangement. There is nothing new in this basic concept, after all batched school PFIs were around long before BSF. What BSF did, however, was to bring an element of standardisation to the contractual documentation with model contracts and specifications, even if these were then made bespoke for each and every project. [With our track record of advising on batched school and BSF PFI projects, this is an area in which we have extensive experience.
It’s not just the benefits of reduced capital costs either, by using standard layouts with a standard set of components, faster construction times are possible.
Secondly and continuing the theme of standardisation, standard designs, as recommended in the James Report, look like playing a key part in the attempt to bring down costs. The report recommended the development of standard drawings and specifications to reduce the need to design from scratch each and every time a school is commissioned. Of course, this is nothing new; plenty of other sectors have already embraced it to deliver real savings. It’s not just the benefits of reduced capital costs either, by using standard layouts with a standard set of components, faster construction times are possible.
Whilst we do not pretend that this will be the answer for every single project, we do believe it gives a glimpse of what is possible with standardisation.
Faithful+Gould is already investing in this philosophy. We have teamed up with Scape and Derbyshire County Council to develop the Connect classroom extension model. This concept will deliver an extension 30% cheaper and 6 months faster than conventional construction, whilst being as robust and flexible as any conventional project. Whilst we do not pretend that this will be the answer for every single project, we do believe it gives a glimpse of what is possible with standardisation.
The PSBP is a potential game changer for the industry. The economic situation we find ourselves in is vastly different to that when BSF was launched; we can expect to be scrutinised at every turn. The reality is that if we want to improve the outcomes for our children by delivering world class facilities we need to think differently. If we are not prepared to try new things, we will simply end up having to make do with less and this cannot be the right solution.