Transparency on outcome of Belfast Destination Hub RIBA Stage 1 procurement

06/01/2021

Following a Freedom of Information request, RSUA has been provided with a list of the five fee bids received by Belfast City Council in response to its tender for a concept study and interpretative framework to RIBA Stage 1 for the proposed £100m Belfast Destination Hub. 

At the time of the procurement in late 2019, RSUA had raised its serious concerns that Belfast City Council would not receive appropriate fee bids for the scale and complexity of this project because a maximum fee bid of £100,000 had been implied. It was RSUA’s view that the budget should have been double or treble this amount and we are aware that a number of practices did not bid because of the low budget. RSUA also raised concerns that the scope was unclear and that the previous experience requirements were an effective bar for most architects in Northern Ireland. Overall we were concerned that this procurement approach would reduce the likelihood of Belfast deriving the maximum benefit from this potentially transformational project. 

The procurement results show that the £100,000 budget had the effect RSUA warned of with four of the five prices being below £100,000. The prices received were as follows:

Price
£97,725
£166,730
£98,655
£97,187.50
£93,475

The winning price was £97,725 following the application of a 20% lowest price/80% quality ratio. 

RSUA is an advocate for transparency in the public procurement of architects. Publication of procurement results allows for appraisal, learning and improvement in future procurements. 

It is clear from this outcome that clients must be very careful when setting budgets for architectural services as it is likely to effect bids received. This is particularly true for the most significant civic buildings.

With the Belfast Destination Hub being the single biggest investment by Belfast City Council in a generation RSUA had proposed that the design appointment should be based on quality alone or though the utilisation of the Narrow Average. 

The overall aim of the Belfast Destination Hub project is to provide a new central visitor destination that will serve as a catalyst for economic, social and cultural regeneration. The proposal at the time of the procurement included the Belfast Story (a dynamic, interactive and immersive visitor experience using leading edge technology, which tells the story of the city and its people), The Space (a flexible gallery, exhibition and performance space unique to the island), Creative and Digital Skills spaces and the Belfast Film Centre as well as high quality public realm, retail space and food and drink outlets.

RSUA is continuing its engagement with Belfast City Council on this project and is hopeful that future procurements will take account of feedback to enable the delivery of the best possible outcomes for Belfast.